Can Drew Hunter Pull A Centro At Penn Relays?
By Johanna Gretschel for MileSplit
But a year ago? Not so much.
It was last year's Penn Relays Carnival 3k that catapulted the then-sophomore at Loudon Valley, Va. into the national spotlight. Seeded 14th, Hunter bided his time in the chase pack before laying down the hammer in the last quarter mile to not only win his first national-caliber race, but set the National Sophomore Class Record in the event at 8:16.31.
"It's pretty much where everything started for me... I never really ran at the national level before," Hunter said. "So once I was put in a field with Alex Ostberg and Justyn Knight [now a 3:39 1,500m runner at Syracuse] and those guys, I was not only competing against them but I ended up beating all of them.
"It put me in this realization that I'm really good at it. I'm good at this sport and let's see how good I can be. It's motivated me ever since to really push and get the best of myself."
On Friday evening at 6:05 p.m., Hunter hopes to do something special to cement his name amongst the best to grace the hallowed facility. He will race the Mile in an attempt to be the second-ever schoolboy to win both individual distance events at the Relays.
It's a move reminiscent of fellow Mid-Atlantic native and two-time IAAF World Championships 1,500m medalist Matthew Centrowitz. The future Oregon Duck garnered his first national attention in winning the Penn Relays 3k as a junior at Broadneck (MD) in 2006. He returned in 2007 to win the Mile in 4:08.38, then a Meet Record.
"It would be incredible to be put in the same category as an Olympian, even if it's just high school," Hunter said. "He's one of my favorite runners... He's a funny guy, I like him. I follow him on Twitter and instagram and I always laugh at his jokes. He's a jokester but he's also really serious. You can tell he's got a lot of fire about racing."
Before he became one of the world's best milers, Matthew Centrowitz won two Penn Relays titles in high school
Centrowitz is the only prep to win both events at the Relays - and there is a reason why.
"I'm really excited, I can't wait," he said. "I looked at the field, it's stacked. There's pretty much all the best guys on the East Coast, pretty much the best mile field they've ever assembled, in my opinion."
Hunter has yet to break 4:10 in his career, making his best effort a few seconds slower than his competitors. But the date has been circled on his calendar since last year.
"I hate slowly getting through the week because I just want to race already," he said. "It's definitely my favorite race of the year. It's a great atmosphere."