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Stoddart, always there(Jun 6 2014, 04:05 PM)
Chris Brown(May 29 2014, 04:42 PM)
 

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Cain runs 2:02 at Pre, her outdoor season debut

Published by
Armory Track News   on Jun 6 2014, 03:41 PM

By Jack Pfeifer

EUGENE, Ore. – After a quiet spring in which she recovered from an injury, turned 18 and had zero competitions, Mary Cain returned to the track here last Friday and ran the 800 in the “preliminary” part of the program at the famous Prefontaine Classic.

Although she ran an excellent 2:02.31 – only five other high school girls have ever run that fast – because she finished 8th in the top-drawer race and was never in the mix, there was consternation throughout the Cain/Nike camp after the race. She huddled with her coach, Alberto Salazar, and with her sports psychologist in a distant tent, and she was said to be unavailable to speak with members of the press.

A few hours later, however, she did appear and graciously answered every question put to her, speaking confidently and showing no sign of disappointment.

“It’s only in the last week that I have been able to focus on track,” said Cain, who is preparing to graduate from Bronxville High School in a couple of weeks, before moving to nearby Portland, Ore., for college. “I have one more Econ paper I have to hand in before I graduate June 21. Then I take my driver’s test – I hope I pass!”

Cain is facing a track future few American youngsters have ever contemplated – a star at 17, a teenage wunderkind who has already taken on the best runners in the world and handled it with aplomb, now passing up college scholarship offers to attend the University of Portland, a small Catholic school here in the Pacific Northwest thousands of miles from her home in Westchester County, her signature already affixed to a bountiful contract with the Nike shoe-company colossus. Is that a lot to manage?

“I think I know where I’m going,” she said smoothly, her teenaged giggle still surfacing in a quaint sort of way now and then, one foot in professional womanhood, one foot still a kid.

As for the remainder of this season, “I’m planning to run the 1,500 in New York on the 14th.” That would be the Diamond League meet at Randalls Island in two weeks. “And I’m definitely thinking about the World Juniors.”

This would be a significant change in plans, as earlier this year that meet – being held here in Eugene in July, the first time it has been held in the States – had been ruled out. Her injury this spring – “last winter I did way too much stuff on the treadmill,” she said, blaming herself for the resulting ailment --  ironically has put the Juniors meet on Cain’s radar. “I was planning to run Paris the first week of July,” she said, “but now I don’t think I’ll be ready for that.” That happens to be the weekend of the U.S. Juniors meet, the qualifying meet for Worlds. As if speaking to a spurned beau calling yet again, she said her dance card may in fact be free that weekend. That could possibly pit Cain against two other brilliant teenagers, Alexa Efraimson, of nearby Camas, Wash., and Elise Cranny, of Niwot, Colo., battling for the two American spots available. Efraimson ran 4:16 as a high school sophomore last year, while the Stanford-bound Cranny has run 4:10 this spring. Only Cain, the prep recordholder at 4:04, has run faster in high school.   

Cain is also already having to manage the expectations of her time and attention. She has been accepted to the Honors program at her new college, and thus is expected to arrive on campus 10 days prior to the start of classes Aug. 25. That could conflict with important races on the European circuit. “So I might have to miss the first two weeks of school,” she said with the ease of a politically savvy freshman-to-be.

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