The expectations seemed unreal for Mary Cain today at the New Balance Games, but she certainly met them, smashing two national high school records and an American Junior mark thus padding her resume unlike any American teen at least in several decades.
She finished third in the elite women's mile in 4:32.78, shaving nearly six seconds off the 41-year-old mark of 4:38.5 set by Debbie Heald in 1972. She also erased the high school and American junior mark in the 1,500m with an en route time of 4:16.11. The previous mark of 4:18.9 was run by Olympic medalist Lynn Jennings in 1978. She narrowly missed the American Junior mile mark of Darlene Beckford, who ran 4:32.30 back in 1980. Sarah Bowman Brown won the race in 4:31.61.
"Kind of when I fell back into the back of the pack (I knew) I still got a kick, so the last 200 I was just gunning it," she told reporters. "It's all up to the kick. I'm a kicker and that's what I do."
Cain had broken the outdoor 1,500m mark at the World Junior Championships last summer, running 4:11.01, and recently ran 9:02.10 in the 3,000m at the University of Washington. That mark was superior to both the indoor and outdoor national high school records.
Almost lost in the details of the historic race was the fact that Cain took the SAT exam earlier Saturday in Scarsdale, N.Y.
Cain finished the test at 1 p.m. and got the Armory with about a little more than an hour to spare before race time. (The women's elite mile went off about 3:50 pm).
Incidentally, Olympic 10k silver medalist Galen Rupp ran in a mile almost simultaneously at Boston University Saturday, logging a lifetime best 3:50.92. The connection there is that Rupp and Cain are both coached by Alberto Salazar.
Cain attended a USATF-sponsored biomechanics conference in Las Vegas in October (the weekend before Hurricane Sandy hit the East coast) to spend a little time with Salazar and his group of athletes and she did a workout with Rupp.
Cain — whose splits were 67.3, 2:16.7 and 3:28.0 — is scheduled to return to The Armory to run in the women's Wanamaker Mile on Feb. 16.
While Cain's performance drew much of the attention, the elite races were each fascinating.
Mary Wineberg, a 2008 gold medalist in the 4x400m relay, looked like she is ready to be a threat in 2013. She led from the start in the women's elite 400m dash, finishing in 52.12 — just .01 off the world lead established by Natasha Hastings earlier in the day in Scotland. Rebecca Alexander (53.40), Keshia Baker (53.53) and Ajoke Odumosu (53.63) had a spirited battle for second.
On the men's side, Torrin Lawrence looked strong in winning the 400m dash in 46.80. He was able to hold off a hard-charging Greg Nixon (47.17) for the victory.
The men's elite mile proved to be Craig Miller's race as he ran away from the field to win in 3:56.90. New Balance teammate James Brewer was second in 4:00.77 while Robby Andrews ran with the leaders for 1,000 meters before falling well off pace. He finished in 4:11.13, far from his hopes for his first sub-four mile.
And Princeton graduate Ashley Higginson established a solid facility record in the mile steeplechase. In the first time the event was contested, she clocked 4:48.11, precisely two seconds ahead of Stephanie Garcia.