State Record Snapshot - 1500+3000 - Centrowitz and Trautmann

While there might not be much track going on in New York State, there is plenty of history to pore through. In our time off, we are looking to revisit all of the State Records for the Outdoor Season. Who these athletes were, where their marks came from, and where are they now. We're releasing "Snapshots Of A State Record," where you can learn what it takes, to put your mark on history. Tune in!

We are now looking at the records in a few events that are not at the outdoor States meet but definitely need to be highlighted. We look here at two long distance records from more than three decades ago in a events that are common for the girls but not so much for the guys. Enjoy!

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It is an oddity with NY track and field that the boys and girls run different distances for the longest distances, though NY is not quite alone in that regard. 44 states including Washington DC run both the boys and girls in the 1600m and 3200m in their outdoor championships, four including HI, OR, RI, and VT make a bow to college and rest of the world outside of US HS T&F and have the boys and girls do the 1500m and 3000m. New York partners with Iowa in having a split personality as the girls do the 1500m-3000m combo and the boys do the 1600m-3200m. That just leaves Massachusetts, which is a throwback mirroring the national championship as both the boys and girls do the mile and 2 mile.

Which are the rational and correct distances for HS athletes to be running is one of those minefields that you do not step into on T&F discussion forums without be willing to lose some vital areas in the cranium, as arguments can get quite extreme. NY's two-way move out of the old yards and miles system in the late 1970s may be because girls HS track was in its infancy and had a separate administrative body and state track championship, and when the girls went metric in 1980 two years after the guys did, the vote was to go with with the distances used in college and on the world scene. The girls' changeover was much cleaner as everything for running events at meets just flipped over, while the guys in 1978 were usually running yard distances in state qualifiers and then making small adjustments to do metric distances at States.

Two guys who fit very well into the story of the change from yards to meters are the state record holders in the 1500m and 3000m, the distances that NY girls run all the time but that HS guys rarely do outdoors except in international competitions and one very special US meet (except of course the pentathlon guys who do the 1500m but not usually very fast at the end of their grind). Matt Centrowitz Sr. the 1500m top guy and John Trautmann of 3000m fame are also good focal points because Centro ran a few years before the metric transition took place, while the guy know as the Fish burst on the scene about five years later. Centrowitz indeed got his record abroad in international competition, while Trautmann got his at a meet that revolves around college and international (Jamaican) competition. Centrowitz missed setting a national record only because a guy named Jim Ryun had done a few good runs back in the 1960s; Trautmann did set a nationals record even though another HS legend named Steve Prefontaine  had laid down a really nice time in 1969.


The story of Matt Centrowitz Sr. has been told pretty fully here on MileSplit, dealing at length with his years at the now gone Power Memorial HS in Manhattan (when he did not use that Sr. appellation) to his current status as the coach of his alma mater Manhattan College T&F team and father of star runner Matt Centrowitz Jr.

But there are a few details we can add to the story of how Centrowitz set the NY 3000m record with a time only exceeded back then by the Kansas schoolboy great Jim Ryun in four races during 1964 and 1965, including a best of 3:39.0. Centrowitz's feat came in the summer of 1973 after he graduated from Power Memorial as he was about to enter his freshman year for the Jaspers.

Centrowitz had played an often dominating presence in the NYC region during his last two years in HS, especially at his his specialty mile distance, in which he still holds the state record after 47 years. Centrowitz broke the NY 2-mile record early in 1973 at the Nanuet Relays with a 9:01, and he was turning in mile legs of around 4:08 as the anchor of Power's distance medley relay, putting him well within shooting distance of the "unofficial" state record of 4:06.0 by Power's Tony Colon in 1970. His official best in the mile was a 4:10.6 at graduation.

Centrowitz's historic summer on the national stage began on June 9, 1973 at the International Prep Meet near Chicago when he ran 16 seconds behind Craig Virgin of Lebanon IL as he shattered the national 2 mile record. Centro lowered his own state record to 8:56.2 with his 2nd place. From there it was out to the Golden West meet the next weekend in CA where he claimed an unofficial national title with a 4:08.0 in the mile. Hardly stopping to catch his breath, he headed down to Gainesville FL to AAU Juniors for 19-under athletes. In the prelims Centrowitz broke the meet record in the mile with a 4:11.8. In the finals he powered through three laps on the lead before San Jose State freshman Mark Schilling sped by him to break the 4-minute mark. Centrowitz did hold on in 2nd to set the all-time NY record of 4:02.7, and that place earned him a chance to run in three meets in Europe with the US Juniors team, mostly at a new distance, the 1500m.

In Germany on July 14 with the favorite Schilling ailing, Centrowitz took his one win in Europe when he won the 1500m in a time of 3:49.5, still more than a second off the state record of 3:48.2 set by Power's Colon in 1970. The record came a week later in Poland as US alternate and collegian Ernest Fisher filled in for Schilling and took the win but also helped pull Centrowitz in at 2nd to a NY record of 3:43.4. In Russia (of the USSR) Centrowitz finished 2nd in 3:46.3 as Schilling returned for the win. But maybe even of more note was that Centrowitz later helped US teammate Craig Virgin in the 5,000m by going out with an agreed on fast early pace to send Virgin off to a national record while Centrowitz in 2nd set a state record of 14:17.0 that would last for more than three decades until finally bettered by Josh McDougal in 2004.


Monroe-Woodbury's John Trautmann has also had his story recently covered on MileSpli. His States meet resume includes wins in the Class A XC race in 1984 and 1985 along with a 2nd as a sophomore, a win in the 1600m outdoors in 1985 and indoors in 1986, and he likely would have had more except for a case of mononucleosis to end his senior career. An early bloomer, "the Fish" as he came to be known set a lot of state class records and he still owns the second best mark overall indoors in both events featured in this article, the 1500m and 3000m.

Before he headed off to Georgetown University in 1987 to team up as a freshman with two NY colleagues Miles Irish (Burnt Hills) and Mike Stahr (Carmel) in setting a national record in the DMR at the Penn Relays, Trautmann on April 25, 1986 had another very special time there in Philly: 8:05.8. That time in the 3000m Championship of America race was more than 16 seconds better than the previous state record of Penfield's Grant Whitney in 1982, and it also beat Steve Prefontaine's national mark of 8:07.9 from 1969. It was also a half second better than the national indoor mark of Jerry Lindgren in 1964. Many records like Centrowitz's 1500m are set because great competition pulls out some extra effort, but at the 1986 Penn Relays Trautmann was truly on his own as he finished 15 seconds ahead of the next guy. 

Trautmann's later achievements included a 1st in the 5K at the US Olympic Trials in 1992 and an appearance in Barcelona.