Mary Cain ran a 4:04.62 1500 last night in California. It would apparently be the second-fastest 1500 ever by a US collegian (behind Jenny B.) if Cain weren’t a junior in high school. And the second-fastest 1500 runner in a US high school is Jordan Hasay, all of 10 seconds slower.

Although I’ve been paying attention to what she’s been doing I’ve not written because she has moved on.  A friend who was much more knowledgeable than I could ever be pointed out to me last fall that Cain already had done the high-school team thing about which I said she would be missing. This year she’s shown on the track that she is in fact well beyond the high-school racing thing. I don’t know that she’s elite quite yet. She is knocking on the door. She’s learning how to race and is showing no intimidation. She seems to be racing a lot, but I’m sure everyone is being very careful about it. It is clear, though, that she is well past high school and may have leap-frogged most college runners (she’s beating them routinely now).

It is unfathomable what she goes through. We get anxious about our little 5Ks, races about which no one else cares. For her, there was a LetsRun thread before last night’s race speculating on how fast she’d run (including “let’s get real, sub 4:06 isn’t going to happen this season”, apparently from a Romney pollster). Every couple of weeks we get a where-is-she-going-to-college? thread (and there’s a when-is-she-going-pro? thread now).

Yet she hasn’t had a sub-par race. To the contrary, she’s faster. The last disappointing race I recall from her, going by memory, was indoors in 2012 when she was racing at a high level although not doing much speedwork so it was only disappointing that she was not winning for those who thought she was in full racing-shape at the time when she was training for outdoors. In fact, since I started paying attention, I think the only truly disappointing race she’s had was in the 1500 at Nationals as a freshman, the day after her 2:03.74 800 leg, and I think that she suffered from that 800 in the 1500. That’s a virtually unblemished record under incredible scrutiny.

She just turned 17.

I almost ran into her last week. We were both doing speedwork in the same lane at the same time in opposite directions. She deferred to me, I to her. We missed.  (She was just doing end-of-workout 200 pick-ups.) Yes, there’s a reason one goes counter-clockwise doing speedwork.

I thought Alberto Salazar gave a nice interview about the race and Cain’s progress.