You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Mary Cain’ tag.

It’s been well over a year since I posted anything. That is largely because my running, such as it is, is crap. Just when I start to feel decent, something breaks. Yesterday it was pain on the bottom of my right foot. So I’m in it-may-be-over mode.

But that’s not why I’m posting.

I’ve posted about Mary Cain. That was all a while ago. I’ve not been following her or, for that matter, running generally for a while. Today, though, the Times posted a video in which she speaks of her time with the Nike Oregon Project. It speaks for itself. There’s a nice cover story by Lindsay Crouse.

My only comment is that when I followed Cain, she showed amazing mental strength. Under a microscope, she came through, at least while in high school (whether on or not on the Bronxville team). Much as I get stressed–or used to at least–for the most inconsequential race, she had it all the time on big races and small. And she came through.

When I think of Mary Cain, I think of the first time I saw her. I was in my kitchen, watching on a laptop. She ran anchor for the B’ville 4 X 8. She gets the baton at 6:46:

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.

Comes word that Mary Cain is no longer running for Bronxville. A junior, she is now under the tutelage of Alberto Salazar, who is coaching her from Oregon with a local runner acting as the on-the-site presence.

While she could get away with running on her own for track, there was going to be problems when cross started, given that it is a team sport. Shortly before the season began, the boys’ coaches who had coached her in track quit as coaches.

Although being compelled to go back with the girls’ coach might have succeeded in getting everyone back on the same page and, as I’ve noted before, gotten her to be part of the high-school team experience, it was not be. It was never to be.

Bronxville’s girls have a long history of excellence, under coach Jim Mitchell (who, strangely, is referred to as “Mitchell” by girls on the team and, not so strangely, as “Mitch” by parents) and that tradition will continue. I think everyone is relieved that the curtain has closed on this drama.

Cain is not leaving the school, where she’s a straight-A student I’ve heard described as “scary smart”. But Wesley Crusher-like will be taking her talents elsewhere.

We wouldn’t think twice about an exceptional musician going into the City after school for lessons and not playing with the school band. Should a runner be any different. On LetsRun there was a thread in which several posters said that excellence requires a professional approach.

I differ on two fronts. First, the US has a plethora of world-class middle-distance runners, presumably who made it without the professional-touch in high school.

Second, as I said when I called Cain’s father’s statement that she needed to leave Jim Mitchell because his daughter “‘needed that individualized attention'” BS, she got to the extraordinary level she’s achieved with the coaching she already had, the outstanding freshman track and sophomore cross season under Mitchell and the outstanding outdoor track sophomore season under Ed Stickles and Julio German. Now Salazar is going to fix form-defects he sees with her, although I think she has the best form this side of Bernard Lagat.

There was concern about having Cain run a normal HSer’s schedule. She had to run a certain number of XC races to qualify for the States, but she skipped the season’s first because, as her-then coach Mitchell said, she had a very long track season so he wasn’t hurrying her. Plus she was winning the races she did run by quite a ways. Putting it all together, my assumption was that even is she ran races, her training would have been geared toward spring track. She’d likely win races as a workout.

Who knows. In the end, this is best at least for Bronxville. Whether it is best for Mary Cain remains to be seen. She’s now Salazar’s new project.

I was preparing to write how I’d rid myself of my stupor and was setting my eyes on a target race, which was to be the Tuckahoe Challenge 5-Miler in September. And then I got yet another in this series of “minor setbacks” to which I’ve become heir recently. A bit of speed (tempo) on the track last Friday, and a nice easy run on Saturday. I was cruising along in the latter, wearing my Garmin for the first time in many months (one of our dogs (Teddy) had eaten part of the strap and it took a while for me to get it replaced) as a speed control. I felt relaxed and easy. Out for 4, back for 4. Only at about 6.5 I had a sudden pain in the left quad, which would not leave and forced me to stop. Fuck. Sunday it hit at 1.5 miles. Fuck Fuck. A week off. So I ran again today. Nice and easy. No problem in just under 20 minutes. Who knows?

The thing is that I keep having different things go wrong. There’s neither rhyme nor reason to it. Knee. Quad. Did my switch to a low-drop shoe cause the problem? I’ve not had any of the symptoms one expects from such a change, such as calve and lower-leg strain. I’ve been wearing them for many months. Frustrating.

Not nearly so much I admit as for Flo, who’s been experienced a season, or at least half, of “House” with her maladies. But her most-recent entry includes this gem: “Racing will always be secondary to the activity itself, I love running much more than I love testing myself, but it’ll be a little strange for once to plan ahead for not planning.” Which says as well as anything what this sport is all about. And it’s why TK has been having such trouble with a no-run injury. I’ve been there, years ago, so the best I could do was offer the hope, not the promise, of enjoying “the activity itself” again.

Meanwhile, the Mary Cain saga continues. She was the 31st of 32 qualifiers in the Olympic Trials 800 and was in Heat 1 last night. Four Heats. Top 3 plus 4 fastest made it to the semis. She was fifth in her heat, and did not make it through. Quite a fine performance. She’s been focusing on the 1500 this year, but is probably too far down the list to be among the 30 who qualify for that event. So it’s off to the World Juniors.

It seems that I’ve become something of a poster-boy for the anti-Cain camp, and it seems that there are those who think there is an anti-Cain camp. I’ve seen anonymous comments on LetsRun about her that appear to be from people with some knowledge of things. (I’ve no idea who they are but I am curious.) Some are nasty. Except for one comment in the fall (which simply noted the presence of “tension” on the girls’ cross team), I’ve always used my own name. I’m the kid too stupid to flee when the cops raid the party and so I’m the one whose parents are called. And because I’m friends with someone else, she gets in trouble too.

I heard that the problem was my posts. I looked them up. There aren’t many. And I think them sympathetic to Mary Cain. This is because I am sympathetic. (I do know enough to know that the personality-issues are not black-and-white.) If anything I tried to say that it must be difficult to be a high-school runner without a team. I was a star in a team with many, but none a superstar, although some were closer than I was. My most treasured high-school memories concern my relay duties and my cross events.  The van to and from meets. Warming up in school sweats on the Van Cortlandt flats, looking askance at the kids from the powers that we were going to show a thing or two. Hanging out in the stands after a race.

All that little stuff that one sees hundreds and hundreds of teams experience and that is the fiber for high-school track and cross. In Bronxville seeing members of the teams on long runs along the Bronx River Parkway. Even now, running mostly alone, I relish the times I get to run with a group. So I feel sad for her. Her fault or someone else’s, I feel sad for her. If I had any hope for any usefulness in my posts, it was to get that message across to those involved.

Apparently I failed. So why the bad feelings toward me? Apparently I went “public” with internal issues. Utter nonsense. Turns out that when I commented on Charlie Cain’s statement to a local newspaper/newssite that Mary Cain changed coaches because “said Charles Cain, Mary’s father. ‘She was at a level, I think, where she just really needed that individualized attention.'” and said that this was (a) an insult to her former coach, Jim Mitchell, and (b) a display of arrogance that I didn’t think was appropriate for a school, it was me who made things “public” when I wrote on this barely-on-anyone’s-radar blog.

I received a comment there, as I have elsewhere, from Jerome Kopf, who has insightful things to say about Mary Cain (although I was right and he was wrong about the effect on Mary Cain of a heat on USATF Juniors). Not a peep (including an email), though, from anyone else telling me I didn’t know what I was talking about. I admit, though, that I do not know whether Charlie Cain was reprimanded by anyone for his injudicious statement.

It is said that speaking about her outside the four corners of her performances is out-of-bounds. I write about those performances as a fan of the sport, as people write about Jenny B or Galen Rupp, with the caveat that she’s 16 and has just finished her sophomore year in high school. Things get dicey, though, when others speak about her outside the four corners of her performance. I wrote about her father after he did that. As judges are wont to say, “You opened that door counselor”.

[edited to add: My friend HD sent me a link to a Times article on Cain that I missed.]

I can’t embed it but this is scary. In what was touted as the big HS girls’ 1500 of the year with some of the top runners in the US, Mary Cain turned it into an exhibition. It’s almost the same way she won NY States in 2011 but faster and even more decisively, in both cases taking the race by the scruff of the neck with 400 to go and, well, going. She’s now going to Barcelona for the World Juniors (she was too young last year, when she was second in this race). Her 2:14.74 4:17.74 (thanks Ewen) is the second-fastest ever by a high-schooler. And she’s just finished her sophomore year.

One quick comment on the Mary Cain situation. She ran the fastest mile ever by a sophomore, at the Penn Relays, a 4:39 or so. That she didn’t run a relay says a lot. The Rubicon has been crossed — an overture from one of her erstwhile teammates indoors being rejected. I may have been harsh on her new coaches, but they seem to be making the best of a bad situation.

The girls team seems to have moved on. They will continue Bronxville’s tradition of excellent 4 X 8s, perhaps not challenging the national record but it’ll still be an excellent team. Cain will blow the doors off the joint. She won’t do it with the participation or support of a team. Too bad.

Jenny B

Meanwhile there’s a new video about Jenny B (Jenny Simpson to newcomers). One fascinating detail is buried in it. It’s about dressage. I knew she loved horses growing up, but I didn’t know of her traumatic experience in that sport. She seems to have handled the transition to being a pro well, and particularly as one of few New Balance elites having the spotlight always on, after a bit of a post-collegiate challenge.

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. [Edited, 6/4/14, to note: that video is no longer available.]

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.


Blog Stats

  • 131,917 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 193 other followers