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Teen Phenom Mary Cain Sets Another Record at the Prefontaine Classic
By Steve Ritchie - Special to the Statesman Journal
June 1, 2013

Alysia Montano

EUGENE - At the conclusion of the women's 800 meter race at the Prefontaine Classic on Saturday, American champion Alysia Montano asked high school phenom Mary Cain if she would like to have the red chrysanthemum Montano was wearing in her hair. Cain nodded, and Montano took the flower from her hair and put it in Cain's hair.

It might not have been intended to be the symbolic passing of the torch from a current star to the next big star, but it may as well have been.

Montano had just held off Cain in the final strides of the 800 race to take fourth place, but that was nearly irrelevant to the bigger picture at play. For the sixth time since the start of 2013, Mary Cain had just bettered a U.S. national high school record and an American junior record, placing fifth in the world-class race at 1:59.51. Cain's time broke a record established nearly 31 years ago, and was the first time a high school girl has broken the 2:00 minute mark.

Since the start of 2013, Cain has broken national prep and junior records in the following events: indoor 3000; indoor mile; indoor 2 mile; indoor mile again; outdoor 1500; and outdoor 800. That's quite a streak and there is no reason to think it will stop anytime soon. Cain, who has been coached by the legendary Alberto Salazar since last fall, clearly has the talent and the mental toughness to push herself to new heights, maybe even onto the U.S. team for the world championships this summer.

Cain said that running at the 2012 Olympic Trials last summer was a turning point for her. Following her sophomore year at Bronxville (NY) High School, Cain made it into the Olympic Trials 800 meter qualifying as the 31st qualifier. After the first round of qualifying, the top 16 advanced to the semifinals. Cain was 18th. While Cain said she was thrilled to make it that far, it also made her realize that it wasn't enough for her.

"That night I decided that I didn't want to be that person just barely making it in," Cain said after the race. "I decided I wanted to be the person in the finals, in lane four, and I've just been determined ever since and now that I have this great opportunity to run in these races, hopefully, I'll be like, 'Oh, a piece of cake.'

"I'm just so thrilled to go under two minutes . . . I was the first one to do it and that's been my dream since 8th grade when I was probably running like 2:12, and I thought I'm going to be that kid, I'm going to do it. I hope I inspire future kids because I've done it (now) and we can do it."

As exciting as Cain's achievement was for the sun-drenched Hayward Field crowd of 12,816, there were many high points during the fast-paced IAAF Diamond League Meet.

Eugene's Jesse Williams, the reigning world champion in the high jump, had an off-day, going out at 7-3, but Erik Kynard, Derek Drouin and Mutaz Essa Barshim more than made up for it in what was, perhaps, the best high jump competition ever held in the U.S. With all three of these athletes in their early 20's, the Hayward Field faithful got a good look at the future of the event.

Kynard, a Kansas State athlete who will be jumping at next week's NCAA Championships in Eugene, went 7-8 ¾. Drouin, also a collegian, matched that height, setting a new Canadian national record in the process. Barshim then went even higher, clearing 7-10 ½, the best jump ever on American soil.

Another best-ever mark on U.S. soil occurred on the track in the women's 1500. Kenya's Helen Obiri pulled away from the field to a big victory in 3:58.58. American Treniere Moser ran a personal best and second-fastest time for an American this season, taking fifth in 4:02.85.

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Tirunesh Dibaba from Ethiopia took over the world leading time in the 5000 meters with a win in 14:42.01, but she had to battle Kenya's Mercy Cherono every step of the way. Dibaba started to pull away from Cherono with 600 meters to go, but she couldn't drop Cherono, who finally pulled even with 200 to go. The pair raced side-by-side into the homestretch, but Dibaba managed to get one stride clear and hold it to the finish line.

Several local runners, who are gearing up for the U.S. Nationals in three weeks, turned in solid, if unspectacular, performances.

Former Salem resident Ryan Bailey was hampered by a poor start in the 100 meters, but managed to take third in a season best time of 10.00, behind fellow Americans Justin Gatlin and Michael Rodgers. Gatlin got the convincing win in 9.88, and, afterward, Bailey admitted he needs to get out of the blocks better.

"It's alright," Bailey said. "I could have definitely gone a lot faster, but just looking at my race, my start, I need to improve that. It's killing me . . . it's going to take a while but we'll get there."

Although he has been battling the flu and allergies of late, Bailey said he is basically healthy and is looking forward to the U.S. Nationals in Des Moines later this month.

In an 800 meter race that was won easily by Mohammed Aman of Ethiopia in 1:44.42, Nick Symmonds placed third in a season-best 1:45.40. The former Willamette star said he hasn't begun the transition to speed work in his training, and was running strictly off strength training.

"I'd love to have had a couple of weeks of 800 training under my belt because I think I could have won that race," Symmonds said. "But I'm more concerned with winning USA's and going to Moscow and having a good showing there (at the World Championships)."

Matthew Centrowitz, who placed tenth in the Bowerman Mile, was in the same situation as Symmonds, having just returned from high-altitude and high-mileage training that is focused on getting him ready for later races. But Centrowitz admitted that finishing tenth bothered him, even though he ran a personal best mile time of 3:51.79.

"I'm a very competitive athlete and coming into a high-caliber race like this I want to be top three, top five coming down the stretch.I know (my) training is there and come summer I'll be ready to roll but I just wish I had a much better showing today," the 2011 world bronze medalist said. "It kind of sucks when I have all these high goals for myself . . . I won't get (to race) a field like that even in a world or Olympic final."

Notes . . . It wasn't a great day for all the 2012 Olympic gold medalists here. Sanya Richards-Ross took last in the 400, Russian Natalya Antyukh was last in the 400 hurdles, Allyson Felix was seventh in the 100, and Kenya's Ezekiel Kemboi was disqualified from the 3000 meter steeplechase for elbowing victorious countryman Consesius Kipruto in the homestretch. . . Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica was one gold medalist who did well, winning the 100 in a sparkling time of 10.71 . . . Hansle Parchment of Jamaica was the upset winner in the 110 hurdles in 13.05 as favorite American Jason Richardson was last in 13.45 . . . Olympic gold medalist Robert Harting of Germany extended his winning streak in the discus to 34 consecutive wins. Harting threw a world-leading mark of 228-11 . . . Galen Rupp took sixth in the 5000 meters in 13:08.69, one place behind Bernard Lagat. Rupp's training partner and double Olympic gold winner Mo Farah was second, getting out-kicked by Kenya's Edwin Soi, who won in 13:04.75. Both Farah and Rupp declined to comment after the race . . . France's Olympic Champion Renaud Lavillenie overcame early problems - and a trio of German vaulters - to capture the pole vault in a world-leading mark of 19-6 ¼.


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