- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 20, 2007

Many great high school and college runners go pro. Others work hard to inspire young athletes.

Three weeks ago, Matt Centrowitz Jr. of Broadneck High in Annapolis broke one of Penn Relays’ oldest records by winning the high school boys’ mile championship.

That record was held since 1972 by Gordon Oliver, the former Bethesda-Chevy Chase High and Georgetown University star who now coaches middle school runners at Loudoun Country Day School in Leesburg. He also helps the school raise funds for their new campus.

Oliver knows the struggles of an aspiring runner. His road to Georgetown University was not easy.

“I was unable to get into Georgetown right out of high school because I didn’t have the grades,” Oliver said. “I went to a smaller college, the Mount, and got my grades up, transferring to GU after my freshman year. I enjoyed Mount St. Mary’s, but the competition wasn’t there yet.”

Mount St. Mary’s did help expedite Oliver’s papers to gain U.S. citizenship. The former Brit’s adoptive parents had immigrated to the United States via Canada just five years earlier in 1967.

“I know the coaches and the college were disappointed that I transferred to GU, but I felt it was the right thing to do at the time,” he said.

Oliver still ranks on Mount St. Mary’s all-time performance list with legends like Peter Rono, Daniel Kinyua, and Kip and Charles Cheruiyot.

“Ironically, my redshirted year at GU was my best one competitively before I was injured when I ran for the Georgetown Track Club — made up predominantly of GU alumni,” Oliver said. “I had a full track and field scholarship to Georgetown University.

“At the end of my sophomore year, I fretted because I was plagued by injuries and worried that I might lose my athletic scholarship. But to the credit of the university’s athletic director, Frank Rienzo; track coach Joe Lang; and a great Roman Catholic Jesuit educational institution, everyone stuck by me, and I was able to complete my Georgetown schooling for which I will be forever grateful.”

Closed — The Oct. 7 Army Ten-Miler filled all 26,000 entries and closed May 13 in a record 42 days. Registration ended in roughly half the time as last year.

But the race again will offer an online transfer program so that runners who signed up but are unable to run can transfer their entries to someone else.

Local reps — Two Virginians made the U.S. marathon team for the IAAF World Championships in Osaka, Japan. Samia Akbar and Fernando Cabada were named last week by USA Track & Field to the women’s and men’s five-person teams, respectively.

Akbar of Herndon is a former All-American from American University whose debut marathon performance of 2:34:14 at the 2006 New York City Marathon earned her a spot on the team. Cabada of Bristol was awarded a trip to worlds for his 2:12:27 marathon debut at Fukuoka, Japan, in December.

Persistence — Eric Lavigne of Leesburg, Va., has run more than a dozen marathons in the past seven years. But his 2:23:26 third-place effort at the Eugene (Ore.) Marathon on April 29 was a personal best and possible breakthrough race toward an Olympic marathon trials qualifier of 2:22.

The 31-year-old area road racer broke his previous personal best of 2:26:43, good for seventh at the 2002 Las Vegas International Marathon. Since then, his fastest marathon has been 2:27:45 in November at Philadelphia.

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