Mary Cain, U.S. 1,500m champion, withdraws with a calf injury.
It was around 9 AM this morning and Heather Kampf had just run 10 miles on the treadmill, escaping the interminable Minnesota winter, when she received a call from a phone number she didn’t recognize. She let it go to voicemail. It was Sandy Snow, USATF’s Director of International Teams & Championships, with an offer for a ticket to Poland.
USA Track & Field announced this morning that Mary Cain, Nike Oregon Project athlete and mid-distance wunderkind who won the 2014 USA Indoor Championships 1,500-meter title, had withdrawn from the IAAF World Indoor Championships to be held in Sopot, Poland from March 7-9. In the USATF release, Cain said she is feeling “discomfort” in her lower calf when she wears spikes. An MRI came back clear, but she’s not willing to risk further injury.
Cain’s withdrawal means that Kampf, third in the 1,500m at the U.S. Indoor Championships just over a week ago, was next in line. When she received the news, she says she ran over to a teammate on a nearby treadmill and started “jumping around like a crazy person.”
“She’s going to Worlds! She’s going to Worlds, people!” Jon Peterson, her Team USA Minnesota teammate, announced to the gym.
As a member of Team USA Minnesota, Kampf’s teammate Gabe Grunewald, the U.S. 3,000m champion, and coach Dennis Barker left on Sunday for Poland. As of this writing, Kampf says she hasn’t even talked to her coach to let him know she’s coming too. She tweeted at him shortly after the announcement, “How’s the weather in Poland? I need to know what to pack, coach!”
“Any legal way of getting a world team spot is a great way to get one,” Kampf says, adding that while she ran the 800 meters at the Pan American Games in 2011, this will her first big-time national team.
Though she wasn’t aware Cain was dealing with injury, Kampf says these things happen. “We don’t talk about our weaknesses before races,” she says.
“I know that’s the hardest position in the world, to give up something that is so valuable and so important, that you worked so hard for,” she says. “I know it’s not an easy decision, even when you are injured. I really respect the decision to allow someone who’s healthy to go over [to Poland].
“I probably wouldn’t say anything [to Cain]. I’d just give her a hug.”
It’s been mere hours since she received the news, but Kampf says she’s been busy with preparations, throwing a load of laundry in the washer, calling her boss at Mill City Running, and informing Apple Valley High School, where she’s the track and field distance coach, that she won’t be in to work this week. Her flight leaves this evening around 6 PM CST. “I don’t even know what days my races are,” she says.
But though the opportunity may be new, Kampf says she knows exactly what her goal is in Poland: to make the final. It’s been the same goal she’s had since before the U.S. Indoor Championships.
“I feel as light as air right now. I feel like I could go and win the thing. But I’m not going to say that for sure,” she says, laughing. “I just want to go and compete to the best of my ability.”