It was the 2010 Bronxville 2.5. Peter, my orthopedist, was en route to the hospital. He stopped by at the start to chat with folks. “She isn’t here”, he assured me. The “she” was Mary Cain. So I didn’t wander into the nearest saloon and fall into the bottom of a bottle of whiskey.

She had just run something like a sub-10 3000. She was in eighth grade.

Peter, whose daughter just finished her sophomore year, had mentioned Cain a year before. People realized she was a phenom. The big problem was that she preferred swimming.

She saw the light, although the swimming background will surely help her. After a so-so cross-country season (timewise) as a freshman, and a solid indoor, Cain shot into the stratosphere this Spring. She had a 2:06 800 and a 56 400. In her one and only 3000 she broke Nicole Blood’s state freshman record with a 9:28. She then set the state high-school record in the 1500 with a 4:23.

This got people’s attention. On June 11, the day Lukas Verzbikas was breaking 4 for the mile in a race at Icahn, Cain again set the New York State in the 1500, in the State Championship meet. She beat the US’s top distance senior Aisling Cuffe (who had won the 3000 the night before and would set the national 2-mile record 9:54 this past Saturday) with a 4:17. (The video’s below.) I sent LetsRun an email suggesting that this was the best track race run in New York that day.

Friday night brought the New Balance Outdoor Nationals, from Greesboro, NC. Available on-line, and Bronxville was in the Girls’ 4 X 800. It had the nation’s third fastest time going in. I’d never seen Cain run, so I was looking forward to it. Watch (Cain gets the baton at 6:46):

8:49. The fourth fastest in US history. One sophomore, three freshman. Cain, the anchor, has such a beautiful stride.

On Saturday, in the much-anticipated but delayed-by-rain National one-mile championship, Cain controlled the pace throughout. A slow pace, and it looked like she was setting herself up for a quick finish; her last 400 in that 4:17 was 64. But she faded on the back-straight. She recovered a bit towards the end, running the second fastest split from the 1500 to the mile. But she was a well-beaten 5th. Not bad for a freshman. She went out too fast in that 4 X 800, on adrenaline. (Plus they were delayed by weather in getting out of New York, arriving 3 hours late, just 1.5 hours before the race.)

I then watched that 1500 record. I can’t embed it. Here it is. Wire-to-wire.

We talk about her during some of our Bronxville Running Company runs. I don’t know her folks, but I’ve run with the parents of several Bronxville runners, and there is a real culture of running and inter-class supportiveness that is the hallmark of the girls’ track team. So I take a vicarious interest, and am blown away by this. It’s been the subject of several LetsRun threads, along the lines of is-she-the-real-deal or is-she-a-flash-in-the-pan. Who knows how it’ll play out. But it’ll be fun to see.

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