The 17-year-old is having a phenomenal season thus far.
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
The most captivating athlete currently competing in the United States hasn’t made any Olympic teams. She doesn’t get paid, can’t accept prize money, and isn’t affiliated with any shoe company at the moment. She can’t even take a sip of champagne to celebrate all the records she’s breaking.
Mary Cain, the 17-year-old high school junior from Bronxville, N.Y., is ready to continue her sensational season at two of the top American track meets remaining in the 2013 outdoor season: the Prefontaine Classic on June 1, and the Portland Track Festival on June 8. The Prefontaine Classic is the fourth stop on the IAAF Diamond League circuit, and the second in the United States.
On Tuesday, organizers for both meetings announced Cain’s participation, who is coached by Alberto Salazar. At the Prefontaine Classic, Cain will take on some of the world’s best 800m athletes at historic Hayward Field, then a week later will race the 5000m roughly 100 miles north in Portland.
Cain, who was born on May 3, 1996, isn’t old enough to purchase a lottery ticket quite yet. But she’s hit the jackpot in training and racing this calendar year.
Indoors, Cain set high school records at one mile (4:28.25) and two miles (9:38.68), the former being a national junior record. To cap off her indoor campaign, the gangly Cain earned her first national open title, defeating a field of professionals over one mile at high altitude in Albuquerque, N.M. Her time of 5:05.68 may not have been the fastest of her career, but the final 440-yard split of 59.1 was baffling to professionals and fans alike, so much so that the hashtag #MaryCain began trending on Twitter.
Transitioning to the outdoor oval, Cain and Salazar haven’t missed a beat. Opening at the Drake Relays, Cain timed 4:10.77 for 1500m, another high school record. Not only was her time fast, but she took down a pair of Olympians in Emma Coburn and Morgan Uceny.
Cain’s recent travels have taken her across America to California, where she’s set personal bests for 800m (2:01.68) and 1500m again (4:04.62). The latter came just last week at the USATF High Performance Meet at Occidental College in Los Angeles. There, Cain again broke national junior and youth records while achieving the IAAF World Championships “A” standard.
Traveling to Oregon for the Prefontaine Classic will be familiar for Cain. Last year, she raced the 800m at the U.S. Olympic Trials on the very same Hayward Field track, timing 2:04.11 and finishing fifth in her heat.
This time around, she’ll be facing an accomplished field which includes 2012 Olympic 800m champion Mariya Savinova, 2008 Olympic gold medalist Pamela Jelimo, current world leader Francine Niyonsaba, American Olympian Alysia Montano, and 2007 World Champion Janeth Jepkosgei. Rounding out the field will be Kenyan Winny Chebet, Russian Yekaterina Poistogova, and American Brenda Martinez, who ran 1:59.59 earlier this year in San Diego, defeating Cain by just over two seconds.
At the Prefontaine Classic 800m, Cain has a chance to eclipse the High School and American Junior record of 2:00.07, run by Kim Gallagher in 1982.
A week later in Portland, Cain will run the Team Athena 5000m, a distance she hasn’t raced on the track yet in her young career.
“The question of who could be the most exciting athlete addition to the Portland Track Festival came up at a recent planning meeting. Mary Cain was definitely a pick in this fantasy track draft. Starting back during indoor, discussion of Cain’s most recent race often served as an opening to actual planning at these meetings,” Team Athena President Laura Devine said in a statement. “It only seemed fitting that word of Cain’s plan to compete in the Team Athena 5K came just days after her 4:04 Oxy 1500. As a race organizer I am honored to have Mary Cain compete. As a track fan, I really can’t wait to be track-side while she does.”
The longest track distance Cain has run this year was two miles, where she ran 9:38.68 at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in February.
Both Cain and Salazar are confident heading into both races in Oregon.
“I told her she was capable of running under 4:05 this year, even down to 4:02,” Salazar told Flotrack.org shortly after the Occidental High Performance race. “Her races are way beyond her workouts.
“She does workouts you wouldn’t think could produce a 4:05, they’re not quite that good yet. But for her, they are. I think she’s got a shot at making the [world championships] team.”
Cain, as bubbly as usual and sporting the trademark ribbons in her hair, said she was happy with how her races have gone thus far.
“Mentally I thought I could run this fast,” Cain said in a post-race interview. “Maybe I can run even faster, I don’t know!”
Salazar told Flotrack.org that Cain’s racing schedule will include stops in Des Moines, Iowa, for the U.S. National Championships and on the European circuit.