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
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.