|Mary Cain, IAAF World Junior Championships, 3000m
Eugene – Mary Cain was on a mission to win a medal Thursday evening in the 3000 meters at the IAAF World Junior Championships.
Making it even sweeter, the medal was gold no less, as Cain kicked to the win in a new personal best of 8:58.48 over two Kenyan runners in the last 200 meters of a rough and tumble race.
The speed up – slow down nature of the race kept the field bunched together throughout much of the race. It wasn’t until the last lap that the pace quickened enough to spread the runners out. Even then, there was some major contact on the last curve between Cain and Lilian Rengeruk and Valentina Mateiko, both of Kenya. Regeruk won silver and Mateiko got the bronze.
“There was a lot of jostling,” Cain said afterwards. “I know I’m supposed to keep running, but I kept saying, ‘I’m sorry!’.”
Once Cain got clear of her opponents, with about 150 meters to go, it was game over. Her speed over the last 200 meters was decisive and impressive.
“I had a really good kick,” Cain said afterwards. “I could hear Alberto in my head screaming I have to move now!
Cain had talked before the race about this being something of a “home meet” for her, as she knew the Hayward crowd would be ramped up to support her. That’s just the way it worked out, as the fans in the nearly full house of 8,112 were on their feet to help bring Cain home in first.
“This did feel like a home meet for me. The crowd went wild as I headed down the back stretch. Everybody was so amazing. There isn’t anywhere else you can get a crowd a crowd like that.”
In 12 previous renditions of the IAAF World Junior Championships no American – male or female – had ever won a medal of any color at a race longer than 800 meters.
American junior athletes had won plenty of medals in other events, including four at the 800 meter distance, but top three finishes in the 1500, 3000, 5000, and 10,000 have completely eluded the top U.S. distance runners – at least until Thursday evening. African runners from Kenya and Ethiopia have dominated most of the championship race, making this one all the more special for Cain and American distance running.
Cain had also talked about using this race to gain experience for the Diamond League meets in August, as well as the bigger races in years to come.
“Experience doesn’t come just come from fast times, but from being able to go out there and compete. It was largely a mental challenge, but it’s physical as well, so I’m tired.
Canadian Christian Brennan, who will be a sophomore at the University of Oregon in the fall, survived being placed in lane eight in her 400 meter semifinal. With the disadvantage of not being able to see the other runners due to the stagger, Brennan took the pace out hard from the gun and was near the lead coming off the final curve. In the homestretch, though, she appeared to be in danger of fading from a qualifying finish, but then rallied in the last 40 meters to claim third and advance to the finals on based on her time, 53.81, seventh-fastest overall.
Asked about competing at Hayward in the Canadian uniform rather than the usual yellow and green of Oregon, Brennan said she it did feel a little weird.
“I don’t know, I feel kind of conflicted, but the United States has adopted me so it kind of feels like home,” Brennan said. “I’m going to go out and do my best (in the finals). That’s all I can do. All I can control is me.”
Notes . . . Oregon freshman Cole Walsh did not make it out of Thursday morning’s pole vault qualifying round. The U.S. Junior Champion passed the first two heights, then cleared 16-5 on his third attempt, but was unable to go any higher. “I was warming up well and felt ready to go,” Walsh said, “but when I got on the runway it didn’t seem to work out . . . I was reaching out trying to get to my takeoff and wasn’t really jumping up as well as I usually do.” . . . UO soph-to-be and Sheldon High School grad Maggie Schmaedick ran 16:19.01 in Wednesday evening’s 5000 meter finals to take 12 th place. Her time was just six seconds off her personal best in the event. The race was won by Alemitu Heroye of Ethiopia in a time of 15:10.08 . . . American pole vaulter Desiree Freier celebrated her 18 th birthday in style, clearing 14-7.25 to capture the silver medal and set new American high school and junior records in the pole vault.