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Teen Titan Mary Cain Makes Pro Debut in Gotham

IN PROFESSIONAL DEBUT, CAIN SHOWCASES CHANGE AND CONFIDENCE
By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom

(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
(Used with permission)

NEW
YORK (10-Jan) — After Mary Cain stepped off the track last August at
the 2013 IAAF World Championships following her tenth place finish in
the 1500m final, the 17-year-old believed her season was over. For
many, the end of the World Championships brings a nice break from
training, a chance to relax and put the running shoes away for a few
weeks.

That wasn’t the case for Cain. Coached by Alberto
Salazar, Cain’s next phase of training began less than 24 hours after
becoming the youngest finalist in World Championships 1500m history.
Her focus for the next five months: improving her form.

“I
started off literally the day after I raced in Moscow. Alberto was like
‘Oh you know that two week break? That isn’t happening. Go out there
and run an 800m,'” Cain recalled in an interview here today, her facial
expression showing the initial shock.

Since that day –August
16, 2013– much has changed for Cain. She has turned professional,
signing with PACE Sports Management and the Nike Oregon Project. Cain
also started her senior year at Bronxville High School, just outside of
New York City. And, alas, Cain has been fine tuning her running
mechanics.

“Alberto took me on because I am a young athlete and
I am still malleable,” Cain said, speaking at The New Balance Track
& Field Center at The Armory. “It’s one of those things where we
went hard with the form changes.”

In the weeks and months since
the outdoor season concluded, Cain’s primary objective has been to work
on her hips. Observing past race photos, one may recognize that Cain
had a tendency to appear as if she was sitting. With the help of
Salazar, Cain has worked to make sure her hips are now a bit further
back.

In addition, she’s slightly altered her breathing and the movement of her arms.

If
her professional debut was any indication, Cain’s finely tuned focus
has been beneficial. As part of a workout, Cain raced the 500m and 800m
at the NYC Gotham Cup here today, placing second and first,
respectively.

In the 500m, Cain began from the back and
gradually worked her way up towards Jamaica’s Sophia Smellie. Smellie
would win in 1:11.63, with Cain less than a second back in 1:12.43.
Cain’s time is the seventh fastest high school mark of all-time in the
discipline.

Roughly 30 minutes later, Cain returned to the
track for an 800m. The race began with a bit of a miss-step, as Cain’s
legs got caught on a competitor. But Cain reacted immediately, staying
on her feet and cruising away to an easy win in 2:08.51.

“In
that 800m, I tried to calm myself down and work on getting my hips a
little farther back. When I kick I tend to be a little bit too tight
and all over the place,” said Cain, sporting a small cut on her right
knee from a competitor’s spike. “But the hips right now have been the
most important part.”

Recently, Cain hit the 60 mile-per-week
mark in training, getting close to what she routinely ran in 2013.
While her specific focus may have changed more towards mechanics, Cain
insists that running as a professional isn’t all that different from
competing as a high schooler, which she did for the past three years.

“The
only thing about being a pro now is that I am doing the same exact
thing as last year except I am getting paid for it,” she said. “That’s
the thing a lot of people don’t realize… I feel like this is just the
next step.”

Cain has a busy racing schedule this indoor season:
Next up is a 1000m contest at Boston University on Thursday, January
16, then a mile at the BU Terrier Invitational on the weekend of
January 24, followed by a 2000m race at the New Balance Indoor Grand
Prix on February 8.

A week later, Cain will return to The
Armory for the NYRR Millrose Games. There she will race the 800m
against friend Ajee’ Wilson, Iceland’s Anita Hinriksdottir, and
Jamaica’s Natoya Goule. Goule is the reigning NCAA Champion.

Upon returning to her home track, Cain hopes to achieve something special.

“I’m very excited,” Cain said. “One thing I would like to do for the sport is try to encourage people.”

PHOTO: Mary Cain sports her new Oregon Project uniform at the NYC Gotham Cup

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