MARY CAIN – CHIN UP, SHOULDERS BACK, CAN’T LOSE

Teen Sensation Mary Cain
Mary Finishes Strong in Boston

High school sensation Mary Cain, the junior out of Bronxville, New York, closed with a stride-lengthening rush at last Saturday’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix women’s two mile at the sold-out Reggie Lewis Center in Boston.  Her strong final 50 meters delivered her to the finish line in third place, within one stride of Canadian 5000 meter Olympian Sheila Reid,  though 25-seconds behind race winner and three-time Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia, herself a former teen sensation dubbed the “Baby-Faced Destroyer” for the lethality of finishes.

Notwithstanding, Cain smashed the 21-year old U.S. high school indoor 2-mile record by 17-seconds (9:38.68).  In all, another fabulous performance for the 16 year-old high school junior who continues her assault on the all-time U.S. high school record book.

And yet – yes, there’s an “and yet”, but it’s a good one. Though Mary Cain has broken three long standing U.S. indoor high school records over the course of the still budding 2013 season (unofficial 3000m, one mile, now two mile), her coach Alberto Salazar can still see room for vast improvement.  Even a casual fan can see that her youthful physique still exhibits a mix-master, across the mid-line action in her upper body, an alignment which has profound effect  on the action of her stride, its length, and overall efficiency.

“What I first saw with her was her shoulders hunched forward,” explained Coach Salazar in Boston.  “But we can fix that pretty quick.  And that will fix her legs and stride.  I was talking to my wife about Galen (Rupp) hunching his shoulders forward, and our daughter (Maria) was listening.  She’s an equestrian.  She said, ‘Dad, there’s a thing I wear called Shoulders Back which helps us sit straighter in the saddle’.  So I ordered it, and it has pulled her shoulders back. Both Mary and Galen run with it now. She still has form to improve. She’s weak on top, but at least it’s an improvement.”

Shoulders Back
Shoulders Back

There are many examples of teen sensations who never go on to open division heights.  Melody Fairchild, whose 1991 indoor 2-Mile record Cain broke last Saturday, never approached the same level of track success in her post-high school years.  More recent California teen queen Jordan Hasay, who famously qualified for the Olympic Trials final at 1500 meters in 2008 as a high schooler, has had a very good collegiate career at Oregon – she won the 2011 NCAA indoor championships in both the one mile and the 3000 meters – but not one that stands out like her high school years. BTW, Hasay and Cain will meet up at the February 16th Millrose Games in New York City over the one mile distance.

There are many complex reasons for teen female talent not to blossom further in running, or any sport, for that matter. Some of it has to do with changes in maturing body composition, the psychological pressure to succeed, and new, competing interests. There’s no telling where Mary Cain is headed.  Tirunesh Dibaba took her junior success all the way to multiple world records and three Olympic gold medals.  Mary Decker Slaney, perhaps America’s most celebrated teen sensation, captured double World Championship gold in Helsinki 1983 before infamously – and perhaps ironically – tangling legs with another teen wonder, Zola Budd of South Africa, in the L.A. Olympic 3000 meter final.

Noted throughout his own running career – and now as a coach – for his blunt assessments, Salazar believes the future is unlimited for Mary Cain, who, though restricted by Salazar to post-race interviews, exhibits both an ease and charm in the unforgiving glare of the spotlight that suggest that the stage will not be too big for her to handle.

“In the next couple of years you’ll see her become America’s top middle-distance runner, no question,” Alberto asserted.

The weight on her shoulders will continue to grow.  But with her chin up and Shoulders Back, looks like she’s prepared to carry that load.

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COACH SALAZAR AND GALEN RUPP DETERMINED TO WIN IN 2013

I button-holed old friend Alberto Salazar to discuss last weekend’s 3:50.92 indoor mile PR by Galen Rupp at the B.U. Terrier Classic across town.  Salazar has coached Rupp since his high school days in Oregon, and lead him and training partner Mo Farah of Great Britain to the gold and silver medals at last summer’s London Olympic 10,000 meters.  Of course, Alberto grew up in nearby Wayland, Mass. where he began his own legendary running career.  Tonight, Al and a bunch of his old Greater Boston Track Club mates will meet up with their old coach Bill Squires for a laugh-filled dinner in the Back Bay.

Rupp’s 3:50.92 solo mile at B.U. was the fifth-fastest indoor mile in history and # 2 on the all-time U.S. list.  His coach was pleased, it’s what he expected, but wasn’t overly impressed.

“He ran 3:334.7 last year for 1500 meters,” said Al.  “That’s equivalent to a 3:51.7 mile. So he’s just a little faster now. It’s a natural progression as he gets older, not like a WOW! all of a sudden sort of thing. He’s gotten faster at all distances from the mile to 10,000 meters.”

The Salazar-Rupp connection began when Al saw Galen play soccer on the same team as one of his sons in junior high.  That led to a long-term relationship similar to the foundation of the old British club system where an athlete is coached by one man his whole career.  But even now with success at the highest levels, Galen has only whetted his appetite for more. (more…)

DEMENTIA TEST

Brain

So a friend calls me this morning.

“What do you put in a toaster?” he asks.

“Bread?” I reply.

“Say ‘silk’ three times in your head.”

(“Silk. Silk. Silk.”) OK.

“Now, what does a cow drink

 “Water?”

 “Ok. You don’t have it.”

                                                                   “What?”

                                                                     “Dementia.”

                                                                 “Gimme a chance. I’m working on it.”

Press conference this morning at the Lenox Hotel in Boston at 11 a.m. for the 18th New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, featuring the 3000m runners Galen Rupp, Donn Cabral, and Miles Batty of the USA and Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia.  Galen and Dejen hold Olympic silver medals from London 2012.  Full report to follow.

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HURDLES CHAMP ARIES MERRITT OUT AT SATURDAY’S INDOOR MEET IN BOSTON

Oly champ Aries Merritt
Oly champ Aries Merritt

Merritt, 2012 Olympic hurdles champion and world record holder, has withdrawn from this Saturday’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix at Boston’s Reggie Lewis Center. The news was released by meet organizers late this afternoon.

“At the beginning of yesterday’s workout, I experienced a cramp as I went over a hurdle during one of my drills,” said Merritt in a prepared statement.  “I hate to disappoint Boston area track and field fans, but my physio think it is best if I withdraw to ensure I stay healthy for the rest of this World Championship year.  I hope everyone understands.” 

Merritt was one of the first athletes to commit to the 18th NBIGP, and is a big loss.  He’d run the meet twice before, taking seventh in the 60m hurdles in 2010, then second last year.  That still leaves Olympic champions Tirunesh Dibaba (10,000m) and Jenn Suhr (pole vault) as meet headliners, along with Olympic silver medalists Galen Rupp (10,000m) and Dejen Gebremeskel (5000m) who will meet in the 3000m on Saturday.   Dibaba opens her season on the way to a highly anticipated debut marathon in London in April.  She’s broken the 5000m indoor record twice in Boston (2005 & 2007).

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YES, BUT IS IT A REAL TOUR?

13BBTMtourLogo     Having just passed its first year anniversary the Bring Back the Mile campaign just announced its Bring Back the Mile Tour 2013 which will include 13 stops and an end-of-the-year gala celebrating a Mile legend and the year in the Mile.

Knowing how loosely strung most running “tours” have been in the past,  I emailed BBTM founder Ryan Lamppa the following query:  “Is this simply linking all these mile races up on paper, but not actually creating a specific tour with a prize purse attached at the end?  Now that would be news. Not that this isn’t.”

Here’s Ryan’s response:

“The BBTM Tour 2013 is about the Big Tent, and our main Tour objective in year one is about promotion – promotion of the Mile, Tour events and the athletes, and our broader vision is to have a national Mile grand prix series in 2014 (only top prize money races). In short, we are scaling this. Call the BBTM Tour 2013 lap 2 of the Bring Back the Mile campaign.”

Makes sense, Ryan. Like the mile race itself, it’s important to have a strategy to execute. You’ve had a good first lap, I’d say. Now it’s on to the second.

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NBIGP2013
The first tour site is this Saturday night’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston’s Reggie Lewis Center.  I’m fortunate to be the house announcer for the meet.

In the featured men’s mile, 2011 World Championship bronze medalist Matthew Centrowitz, Jr. heads the field. There will also be both boy’s and girl’s junior miles, events which always light up the raucous New England fans.  The meet sold-out early, but you can watch it live on ESPN3 Feb. 2nd, and again on tape-delay on ESPN2 Sunday, Feb. 3, from 2-4 p.m. Eastern standard time.

Of course, the race that has everyone on the edge of their seats is the match up between Olympic 10,000m silver medalist Galen Rupp and his Olympic 5000 counterpart Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia. These two battled three years ago at the Reggie over 5000m with both losing out to Bernard Lagat’s American record 13:11.50.  Gebremeskel took 2nd, Rupp a close fourth in what was his inaugural pro season.

But now they each hold Olympic hardware, and Rupp is coming off the fifth fastest indoor mile in history last week at the B.U. Invitational (3:50.92).  Gebremeskel will have to run something similar to his memorable one-shoe 3000 at the 2011 NBIGP meet where he bested now double Olympic champion Mo Farah in a final lap thriller.

This meet is not one to miss.

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Run 2013 Virgin London Marathon in Support of Team Entoto

londonmarathonOrganizers of the sold out 2013 Virgin London Marathon have generously donated TWO entries to the Entoto Foundation.  Run one of the world’s most prestigious marathons and help a great cause!  The entries will go to the 2 highest “bidders” (people who commit to raise the largest amount of funds for Entoto.)  Funds can be raised by making a personal donation, receiving donations from friends and family in support of your run, or a combination of both.

Entoto will support you with a personal fundraising page that will be posted on our website and on Facebook.  Bidders must commit to raising funds of $2000 or more per entry.  Remember, this marathon is currently sold out!

And what a field London will have this year:  course record holders from all five World Marathon Majors, plus the 2012 Olympic Marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda, and the world record holder Patrick Makau of Kenya.  In the women’s race you will see the highly anticipated marathon debut of the Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba, the triple Olympic gold medalist on the track and nine-time world champion who will take on four sub-2:20 performers from last year!

Be a part of history while helping ensure that someone without the same fortune of birth can better create a history of their own.

CLICK HERE to make a bid. It’s a win-win situation.

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Haile-Geb Marathon
And don’t forget that the Entoto Foundation has been named the official charity partner of the inaugural Haile Gebrselassie Marathon, coming this October 20th to Hawassa, Ethiopia. Experience a marathon hosted by history’s greatest runner.

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(Disclaimer:  I am a board member of the Entoto Foundation)