Coach Salazar all smiles after Mary Cain sets American high school 1500m record 4:04.62 at at the 2013 USATF Occidental High Performance Meet in May.
Coach Salazar is all smiles after Mary Cain set the American high school 1500m record, 4:04.62, at at the 2013 USATF Occidental High Performance Meet in May.

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.

“I wouldn’t call it the Mary Cain “experiment”, Alberto suggested after having worked with Mary over the previous two months. “It was really circumstances why we got together.  I’d seen a video of her at the World Junior Championships where she ran 4:11 (sixth place, 1500m) and set the U.S. high school record.  Then we met at the Olympic Trials.  I recognized that her bio-mechanics, though not horrible, if fixed early would mean fewer problems down the road.

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.
Red Letter Day

USA Track & Field announces Youth and Masters
Athletes of the Year

INDIANAPOLIS — Mary Cain (Bronxville, N.Y.) and Brian Pilcher (Ross, Calif.) have earned Youth & Masters Athletes of the Year titles, USA Track & Field announced Tuesday, Dec. 3. Cain and Pilcher will be honored on Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Jesse Owens Awards and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Indianapolis, Ind. The event is held in conjunction with the 2013 USA Track & Field Annual Meeting.

Alberto and Mary in Monaco
Alberto and Mary in Monaco

For 17-year-old Mary Cain, 2013 has been the best year of her young career. The Youth Athlete of the Year nod is just one the many honors bestowed upon the youngster, having been recently named the Female Rising Star at the IAAF World Athletics Gala in Monaco. Cain is the youngest American athlete ever to represent the United States at a World Championships meet, and she qualified for the U.S. team with her second-place in the women’s 1,500 meters at the 2013 USA Outdoor Championships.

Cain was impressive on the world stage, finishing fifth in the semifinals of the women’s 1,500m at the 2013 IAAF World Championships with a time of 4:05.21 to become the youngest 1,500m finalist in World Championships history. She set seven national high school records in 2013 along with five national junior records.

Pilcher, a three-time Masters Runner of the Year (2010-2012), is the 2013 Masters Athlete of the Year. Returning to running in 2006, Pilcher has been virtually unstoppable, grading out at 90% or higher in nearly every race he enters. In his final race of 2013, Pilcher won his age group at the Master’s 12 km Championship at the inaugural .US Championships, crossing in 42:03 and grading out at 93.57%.

Pilcher won his age group at four total races in 2013, all of them part of the USA Masters Championships series. At the USA Masters 5 km Championships in Syracuse, N.Y., Pilcher graded out as the top male in the field at an extraordinary 95.54 percent, crossing in 16:22.

The Youth Athlete of the Year award was established in 2001 to recognize an outstanding performance by an athlete under the age of 19. The Masters Athlete of the Year award was established in 2004 to recognize the outstanding performances by 40-and-over athletes. Lists of the previous Youth Athlete of the Year and Masters Athlete of the Year are available on



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