The 17-year-old finished second in the women’s 1,500m final at the U.S. Championships.
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DES MOINES, IOWA — Mary Cain, the 17 year-old middle distance sensation from Bronxville, N.Y., continued her conquest of the American track and field scene on Saturday, taking second in a tactical 1,500m final at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Drake Stadium. With an explosive final lap of 57.86 seconds, Cain nearly beat training partner Treniere Moser in the homestretch and qualified for her first IAAF World Championships.
“I’m just so exhausted,” said a clearly exhilarated Cain, clutching a small, yellow, plush duck she calls Puddles. “I get to wear the Team USA uniform again. It’s an awesome uniform. It’s what we’ve been talking about. I just really wanted to get a uniform. It will be so exciting.”
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The race went out ridiculously slow. The field hit the 400m mark in about 85 seconds, slower than an elite women’s marathon pace. Cain ran all the way in the back, just a step behind Moser, who had won this title three consecutive years beginning in 2005. That was the plan, she said.
“Coach Salazar had all the confidence in me and Treniere,” Cain said in her usual rapid-fire style. “He said Treniere is an amazing athlete. Go with her and you’re on this team.”
Just before the bell, the University of Florida’s Cory McGee had the lead, but Cain immediately shot past her. Moser, who was on the inside rail, quickly followed and began chasing the sprinting Cain, eventually catching her inside of the final 20 meters. It never dawned on the former Georgetown star to back off a little and let Cain win.
“No. I wanted number 4 so bad,” said Moser. “Alberto (Salazar) told me to ‘get ugly.’”
Moser, 31, hit the finish tape just slightly in front of Cain, 4:28.62 to 4:28.76, the slowest winning time at these championships since 1968. That mattered little to Moser who locked in her spot on the national team for the IAAF World Championships in Moscow.
“Absolutely, this is the best,” said Moser, her sunglasses perched on her head. “This one means the most to be by far.”
McGee held on for third place and earned only a provisional spot on Team USA because she possesses neither the “A” (4:05.50) or “B” (4:09.00) standard for the event. She has until July 20th to get it and join Moser and Cain on the team.
“I definitely believe that I am capable of doing it,” McGee said. “I’ve been eager to be in a fast race all year. So, I’d love to give it a shot; I’m not sure where or when.”
Should McGee not achieve either the “A” or “B” standard, fourth place Shannon Rowbury will be added to the team because she already has the “B” standard.
Centrowitz Wins Tactical Men’s Race
The men’s metric mile was also a sit-and-kick affair, just the perfect kind of race for global medalists Matthew Centrowitz and Leo Manzano. Centrowitz, who recently set a personal best at 800m, played it smart and ran close to the front, before ratcheting up the pace with 300 meters to go, a prelude to a vicious final 100 meter sprint. He ran the last lap in a blistering 51.04 seconds and was timed in 3:45.17 at the line.
“I’m thinking to myself, what do I have to be nervous about?” he told reporters. “I’m in great shape. If things go according to plan I said, in my head, I just want to completely dominate this final. That’s what I set out to do.”
Behind him, Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano showed his mastery of both positioning and closing speed, darting wide out of the pack and sprinting past everyone but Centrowitz. He ran nearly as fast for his final circuit as the winner: 51.07 seconds. Two-time Olympian Lopez Lomong finished third.
“I knew I had a really good burst,” Manzano said in his post-race interview. “The only thing I was a little worried was that I couldn’t get out to really work it to my full potential in the last 120 meters. I was pretty much boxed in and I found a little outlet where I had to jog out to lane four or five to make it happen. But I felt really confident in my kick.”
Under USA Track & Field rules, Centrowitz is assured a spot on the world championships team by virtue of both his victory and possession of a “B” standard time going into today’s race. Manzano and Lomong, who also have achieved “B” marks this season, have until July 20th to improve to the “A” standard of 3:35.00 (a team may have two “A”-qualified athletes but only one “B”). (There are other scenarios, of course; too many to list here.)
Out of team contention is two-time Olympian Andrew Wheating. The former high school soccer player was in contention on the final lap, but fell back dramatically with about 200m to go and finished last in 4:01.55. He said a foot injury was to blame.
“My foot just basically exploded,” he told reporters. ”It just couldn’t handle the pressure from the spike.”