Mary Cain announced last week that she was turning professional.
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Last week, PACE Sports Management announced that American teenage sensation Mary Cain had made the decision to turn professional following a fantastic summer that saw the Bronxville, N.Y., native make the IAAF World Championships 1500m final and set numerous records.
Prior to Sunday’s inaugural running of the .US National Road Racing Championships, Olympians Molly Huddle and Deena Kastor expressed their support and fondness of Cain, believing that the 17-year-old made the correct decision to forgo competing in the collegiate ranks and turn her attention to the professional level.
Speaking to media members at a press conference in Alexandria, Va., Huddle — the American record holder for 5000m on the track and the newly crowned U.S. 12K national champion — said she’s been following Cain for years.
“Mary is a fellow New Yorker, so I was watching her online with her school meets when she was young. I kind of knew she would be professional; I didn’t know this soon though,” said Huddle, who on Sunday set a world best for the 12K distance, timing 37 minutes, 50 seconds. “It’s something you’re so young that you just don’t know what professional running quite is yet. She got a great taste of it this summer and did amazing. I think with a performance like she had this summer, anyone making a world championships final at that age belongs running world-class meets.”
At the IAAF World Championships, Cain finished 10th in the 1500m final with a time of 4:07.19. Before Worlds, Cain had set USA junior records outdoors at 800m (1:59.51, since broken by Ajee’ Wilson) and 1500m (4:04.62). She was runner-up to teammate Treniere Moser in the 1500m at the USA Outdoor Championships in Iowa.
On the indoor oval, Cain’s second-place, 4:28.25 performance in the Millrose Games mile was a national junior record, as was her 1500m split en route (4:11.72). At the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, both Cain’s split at 3000m (9:04.51) and final time for 2 miles (9:38.68) where national junior records as well. In March, the then 16-year-old secured her first national open title, winning the mile at the USA National Indoor Championships at altitude in Albuquerque, N.M., at age 16.
“She’s really precocious being able to do that so young and she’s definitely been exciting to watch all year,” said Huddle.
Reflecting on her own path to becoming a professional runner, Huddle said she didn’t think it would be a reality until halfway through her collegiate career at Notre Dame. When she began to run times that qualified her for U.S. Championship meets, then she knew she could compete on the elite scene.
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Similar to Huddle, 2004 Olympic Marathon bronze medalist and American record holder in the marathon Deena Kastor believes Cain has made the most optimal decision, and is more than excited to see what Cain can do.
“I think it’s the best decision for her. She’s already competing on a world stage so I’m not sure she needs the development of a college program,” Kastor told Race Results Weekly. “I think it takes a phenomenal athlete to be able to do something like that. She’s so far above and beyond her competition, I think it makes sense for her [to forgo NCAA competition].”
Kastor also applauded Cain’s decision to pursue a college education.
“It was very evident from the press release that she’s pursuing an education, which everybody should. I think she’s making the best choice for herself and it will be exciting to see what she can do,” said Kastor.
When asked if she believes there will be a trend of top high schoolers making the jump to the professional ranks before college, Kastor didn’t think so.
“I think a lot of other athletes I would encourage to go through the collegiate system to get that experience in. But if we can continue to see phenoms like her come out of the system it would be awesome,” said Kastor.
Kastor — who was a member of Team USA with Cain at this year’s world championships, finishing ninth in the marathon — considers herself a big fan.
“She’s been extraordinary to watch and I look forward to a really lucrative career for her,” she said. “It’ll be fun to see how she develops turning pro so early — will it be leaps and bounds or will it be little incremental steps — and so it’s fun that such a phenomenal athlete will be in the spotlight. She’s been great for our sport this year and it’s been really fun to see her perform.”