They say kids grow up fast these days, and that’s literally true in the case of Mary Cain. Competing on Saturday, June 1, at the 2013 Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, OR, the 17-year-old ran the 800 meters in an amazing 1:59.51. While that time only earned her fifth place in the race, thanks to a highly competitive field that included several 2012 London Olympic finalists, it marked a new record for U.S. high school and junior athletes.
Cain started the race in last place, then worked her way through the field, passing, among others, London bronze medalist Yekaterina Poistogova. She came abreast of London fifth-placer Alysia Montaño on the final stretch and finished half a step behind her.
The previous high school record, Kim Gallagher’s 2:00.07, had stood since 1981, and in addition to toppling that longstanding mark, Cain became the first-ever high school girl to post a sub-2:00 time.
“Part of me was out there thinking ‘Nobody has done this before,’” Cain said after the event, according to Race Results Weekly. “I’d be the first one to do it; that’s been my dream since, like, eighth grade.”
Following her stellar performance, the junior from Bronxville, N.Y., received a rousing ovation from the capacity crowd of 12,816, the AP reports. Capturing first in the event was Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba, who finished in 1:56.72, followed by American Brenda Martinez (1:58.18) and Kenyan Janeth Jepkoskegi (1:58.71). After finishing just ahead of Cain, Montaño, who wears a red hibiscus flower in her hair during races, unpinned the flower and affixed it to Cain’s hair in tribute to her record performance.
Ethiopian Mohammed Aman won the men’s 800 meters, completing his two laps in 1:44.42. Behind him were Kenyan Timothy Kitum (1:45.16) and American Nick Symmonds (1:45.40).
The much-heralded men’s 5000 meters ended in an upset, as Kenya’s Edwin Soi outkicked double Olympic champion Mo Farah of Great Britain in the final 100 meters to win in 13:04.75. American Olympians Bernard Lagat and Galen Rupp finished fifth and sixth.
Among the other notable winners at the Pre Classic—the fourth stop on this year’s IAAF Diamond League circuit—was Justin Gatlin. In what amounts to a reversal of Cain’s story, the 31-year-old American sprinter placed first in the 100 meters, proving he’s still a force to be reckoned with despite his veteran status.
“I just age like wine,” Gatlin said, according to the AP.
American athletes dominated the 100 meters, as Gatlin’s countrymen Michael Rodgers and Ryan Bailey placed second and third, respectively, finishing in 9.94 and 10.00.
Click here for the full results from the 2013 Prefontaine Classic.