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For Cain, Athletics Journey Has Only Just Begun

August 16, 2013 at 12:45pm EST | by David Monti

(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

Moscow, August 16, 2013 -- Teenager Mary Cain's storybook season came to a close with her 10th-place finish in the 1500m at the IAAF World Championships here last night, but her journey as an athlete is only just beginning. The 17-year-old from Bronxville, NY, who shattered American high school and junior records from 800 to 5000 meters this year and became the youngest-ever American woman to make a world championships team, said she's already hungry for more.

"I know I have to put things into perspective," she told reporters after making up two places on the last lap of last night's race with her reliably strong kick.  "So many kids my age would just die to do this. But, I'm a tough person, I expect a lot from myself, and I think it's going to be good tonight for me to refocus." She added: "I was in there and I was running to win."

Cain said her season was now over, but she was clearly excited to work with coach Alberto Salazar on improving as an athlete in the fall.

"I'm going to go home and I'm going to get into this," she continued.  "It's my last race of the season.  I think it's going to motivate me so much for next year.  Next year, there's no worlds; it's just me and learning how to race."

Since Salazar took over coaching Cain last fall, she has sliced through the American record books with with shocking speed. Her record assault began indoors as a 16 year-old last January with a 9:01.10 3000m on the University of Washington's over-sized track (absolute USA junior and high school record). She followed with a USA prep record for the mile at the New Balance Games at New York's Armory (4:32.78), and in the same race broke the American high school and junior records for 1500m (4:16.11). In February at the New Balance Grand Prix in Boston, she broke the USA high school and junior records for 3000m (9:04.51) and two miles (9:38.68), then topped off that performance with a sensational 4:28.25 national indoor junior and high school record for the mile at the Millrose Games, also at the Armory (she also lowered her high school and junior 1500m record to 4:11.72 in the same race). Cain even won the open national indoor title in the mile while still a 16 year-old, running her final 440 yards in 59.1 seconds at high altitude in Albuquerque.

Cain's outdoor season was just as successful. At last April's Drake relays she sent a new high school 1500m record of 4:10.77, then stepped down to 800m at the Re:Run meeting in San Diego, clocking 2:01.68 on a track without a curb.  In the USATF High Performance Meeting at Occidental College in Los Angeles last May, Cain posted her first truly world class mark, scorching a 4:04.62 for 1500m, locking in her IAAF World Championships "A" standard, and wiping Suzy Favor's USA junior record off of the books.  Her record assault continued at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, OR, with another USA high school and junior record at 800m (1:59.51), wiping out Kim Gallagher's mark which had stood for nearly 31 years. Showing excellent range, a week later she ran 15:45.46 for 5000m in Portland, another national junior record.

Despite all of these accomplishments, Cain said that she and Salazar saw many areas for improvement, and that she was anxious to get back to work.

"We're already excited about all of the form work we're going to be doing," Cain went on. "I mean, Alberto said to me going into this, he's like, 'Mary, you can win, you can come in 12th.' I came in tenth; that's not really halfway, but almost, I guess."

After last night's race, silver medalist Jenny Simpson, the 2011 world champion, came over to Cain and the two spoke briefly. Simpson said she really didn't know her young teammate, but was excited to have a chance to help her to succeed and continue to build on America's middle distance resurgence (23 American woman broke 4:10 for 1500m this year, the most of any nation).

"I went up to her and asked her how it went, and she spoke to me for a couple of seconds, and I told her to come find me afterwards," Simpson said. "You know, everyone keeps asking me about her... but I really don't know her at all." She continued: "I haven't really seen her much or gotten a chance to speak positively into her life. Now that it's over, I really would like to see her and just make myself available to her as a teammate."

Next year, Cain has a chance to win a global title on home soil. The IAAF World Junior Championships will be held next July in Eugene.

Categories: Pro Athletes