It was around this time last year at Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon that Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar began touting his new pupil, Mary Cain, the high school sensation out of Bronxville, New York. Cain was in Portland making her NXN debut.
After Al found out Mary was essentially self-coached he spoke with her parents and decided to begin their long-distance coach/athlete relationship. Alberto began flying east every two weeks to evaluate then supervise Cain’s progress.
Bio-mechanics have long been a cornerstone of Alberto’s coaching philosophy, a direct result of an ungainly (though effective) form that carried him to a remarkable track, road, cross country and marathon career until his early flame out after 1982.
“We are running against so many talented East Africans,” he explained. “We are not going to out train them. Our only chance is to do everything perfectly with bio-mechanics and strength (training). That is where they don’t have an expertise. So we have to train perfectly to go against the survivors of their programs.”
Last year at NXN Mary placed second to Sarah Baxter of Simi Valley, California who won her second straight NXN title. Mary closed fast, but had lost ground to Baxter through the mid-section of the Portland Meadows mud bath of a course.
“I’m confident,” said Al before the race. “Some runners are unbeatable on the track, but you don’t know about cross country. I do know she is in better shape than when she ran 4:11 in July. I think she’s a 15:30 5K runner now, because she’s done things which only people who made the Olympic team have done.”
Looking back it was as if Alberto had the looking glass Windexed perfectly clean last December, because throughout the remainder of 2013 Mary Cain certainly outdid even his high expectations. Here is the USATF announcement. (more…)