Kymoy Phillip from Brooklyn’s M.S. 88K/Peter Rouget wants to be just like defending men’s NYRR Wanamaker Mile champion Matthew Centrowitz when he grows up.
“He just plain looks like he’s fast,” Philip said. “He inspires me to run faster, and I think I want to be like him some day.”
The NYRR Young Runner and the champion had the chance to meet on Thursday during the NYRR Millrose Games’ Meet the Pros Youth Clinic at the New Balance Track & Field Center at The Armory.
Phillip was among nearly 300 students from New York City elementary and middle schools who had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take part in stationed learning sessions led by some of the world’s best athletes participating in Saturday’s 109th NYRR Millrose Games.
“It was fun because I got to collaborate with other NYRR Young Runners and hang out with professional athletes,” Phillip said. “In my house, I run all the time. My mom doesn’t like it, but she knows that I do it, and I’m getting faster. My ultimate dream is to be one of the best athletes in the world of running.”
Centrowitz was just as fervent.
“It doesn’t feel like too long ago I was a kid like them,” Centrowitz said. “Seeing how enthusiastic these kids are about running at this young age is great. These are the stars of the future. It’s just fantastic to see how fast some of these kids are running and their form at their age. I wish I could start working with them as a coach.”
The fastest qualifier for the NYRR Young Runners 800 Meters Girls Final, Rosie Coats from Brooklyn’s P.S. 107K/John W. Kimball, has been running since kindergarten and her favorite part of the clinic was the long jump station, led by last year’s NYRR Wanamaker Mile runner-up and 2008 Beijing Olympic silver medalist Nick Willis.
“I think it was really exciting, and I was really interested to meet the professional athletes,” Coats said of the clinic. “I think I can win this weekend, and I hope to be a gold medalist some day at the Olympics.”
One of Coats’ favorite female mentors at the clinic was Shannon Rowbury, the American 1500-meter record-holder and defending Women’s NYRR Wanamaker Mile champion.
Rowbury said although she had physical education courses led by athlete mentors growing up, she wished she would have had clinics put on by champions in her sport.
“I think it’s really valuable in a lot of ways for kids to do clinics like this," Rowbury said. “Just taking into account childhood obesity and childhood diabetes, it’s good to get kids out and active, enjoying sport and realizing it could be fun at any level whether you’re just trying to get out for fresh air or trying to be the best at whatever sphere you’re in."
“They have the chance to learn from accomplished men and women," she said. "And down the line the tips and pointers will help them establish a strong foundation to achieve great things later in life.”
Twenty-two of the participants from the clinic will compete alongside their sporting heroes on Saturday when they line up to race the NYRR Young Runners 800 Meters Boys Final and NYRR Young Runners 800 Meters Girls Final. The 11 girls and 11 boys qualified for the hotly contested finals by beating out more than 3,000 other participants from 130 sites who take part in the NYRR Young Runners programs across New York City’s five boroughs. The trials for the event took place at the Armory in December and the YMCA Brooklyn Armory in January.
Scheduled for 2:37 p.m. and 4:46 p.m., respectively, the girls and boys finals will showcase top talent from NYRR’s Young Runners, a free distance-running program offered to all New York City public schools that uses a team-based structure to help kids learn valuable lessons about how to set goals and make physical activity part of their daily lives.
With the help of their school-based coaches, students in grades 3-12 learn to run distances from one to four miles and participate in many NYRR race events. NYRR Young Runners is also available for free to youth clubs and before and after-school programs in underserved communities. During the 2014-2015 school year, 3,300 students from 109 schools participated in the NYRR Young Runners program.
In addition to Centrowitz, Willis, and Rowbury, other professional athletes who helped mentor some of these NYRR Young Runners at the clinic included 2012 London Olympic high jump silver medalist Erik Kynard, 2015 Pan American Games 100-meter hurdles gold medalist Queen Harrison, and Trinidad and Tobago’s two-time Olympic silver medalist Lalonde Gordon.
They will all be competing in the NYRR Millrose Games on Saturday, and Rowbury hopes at the start line she can still have her reaction to the clinic fresh on her mind.
“Whenever I’m around kids, it reminds me of where I started and that joy of running for running’s sake,” Rowbury said. “It can be easy to get caught up in chasing goals, medals and times, and it is something I do get a thrill out of. But sometimes you see that as pressure rather than as an opportunity, and I think these kids have helped remind me of that.”
The NYRR Millrose Games, part of the USATF Championship Series, will be presented live on Saturday, February 20, on NBCSN from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST. Fans can also catch the excitement on the live webcast from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. EST on USATF.tv.