Mary Cain and Matthew Centrowitz Lead Nike Oregon Project Charge Down Fifth Avenue

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By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK CITY (12-Sep) — In 2012, shortly after she ran a national high school best of 4:11.01 for 1500m, Mary Cain received a coveted invitation to the NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile. Growing up in Bronxville, N.Y., a suburb just north of here, Cain had always followed the race from afar. This was her chance to go up against Olympians and some of America’s best milers.

“I was so excited and wanted to race so bad and see what the heck I could do,” Cain recalls, speaking to Race Results  Weekly at the New York Road Runners historic headquarters at 9 East 89th Street. Sadly, Cain had to decline the offer, for her high school schedule was too busy.

Now, some two years later, the 18-year-old is ready to make her long awaited Fifth Avenue Mile debut, racing 20 blocks from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to Grand Army Plaza.

“I was so devastated. I finally get to do my junior year dream. It’s exciting!” said the always bubbly Cain.

Having just started her freshman year of college at the University of Portland, Cain has spent the last month training in Oregon under the watchful eye of Alberto Salazar of the Nike-sponsored Oregon Project. Having not raced since winning gold at the IAAF World Junior Championships 3000m on July 24, Cain is champing at the bit to lace up her racing flats.

Better yet, Cain gets to do it in front of her home crowd, racing a mere fourteen miles from home.

“I’m excited to be home and excited to race in New York where I’m from and have that home crowd advantage,” she said.

Professional athletes running the 2014 Fifth Avenue Mile (from left to right, Matthew Centrowitz, Brenda Martinez, Jenny Simpson, Mary Cain and Will Leer) post on Fifth Avenue with NYRR Youth Running Ambassadors, Will Tibbals (13) and Hope Perez (9). Photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly

Professional athletes running the 2014 Fifth Avenue Mile (from left to right, Matthew Centrowitz, Brenda Martinez, Jenny Simpson, Mary Cain and Will Leer) post on Fifth Avenue with NYRR Youth Running Ambassadors, Will Tibbals (13) and Hope Perez (9). Photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly

A home crowd advantage will come in handy, as two-time champion and IAAF Diamond League 1500m series winner Jenny Simpson seeks to retain her crown, while 2012 winner Brenda Martinez, European Championships bronze medalist Laura Weightman, and Olympic silver medalist Sally Kipyego are also entered.

“I’m in it to compete and whatever that means, it means,” Cain responded when asked what her goals were. “I’m running against Jenny Simpson, the number-one 1500m runner in the world, Brenda Martinez, my teammate Treniere [Moser]. It’s going to be competitive, it’s going to be fast. All I want to do is really throw a wrench into the works, see what I can do. I think I can be extremely competitive.”

Cain’s best mile to date is a 4:24.11 performance, run indoors in January of this year. In February, Cain clocked 4:27.73 to win the NYRR Wanamaker Women’s Mile at the NYRR Millrose Games right her in Manhattan. She has never contested a road mile.

“As long as I leave the course knowing I did everything I could and that I’ve situated myself well for next year, that’s all that really matters,” she said.

Cain plans on spending time speaking with fellow Nike Oregon Project athlete Matthew Centrowitz today, going over strategies and race plans. Centrowitz was the 2012 men’s winner, and will compete tomorrow as well.

Like Cain, Centrowitz enters Saturday’s race with high expectations. An injury kept him out of last year’s contest, when Nick Willis won in 3:52.1. Having set personal bests of 3:31.09 for 1500m and 3:50.53 for the mile this year, Centrowitz says he is ready to fight for the win.

“I’m healthy this year and excited, so it’s good to come back,” said Centrowitz, 24. “Obviously I’m young so I’ll have many more opportunities, but I’d like to rack up as many titles as possible. So this year the goal is to get another one under my belt.”

Centrowitz says his confidence is high and he’s primed for a fun, quick race. The only man faster than him in the field of sixteen is Kenya’s Augustine Choge, who holds a personal best of 3:50.01.

“I imagine it’s going to be closer to 3:50, if not under, so it should be good,” he said. “When you have a straight shot, especially how Fifth Ave. is, you can get a little excited early on. You see the finish coming up and you just want to start kicking and it’s like, ‘Oh man, I’ve still got another 200 meters!’ There’s a lot of things I have to remember from 2012. It’s a different beast.”


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