The Mary Cain Show Rolls On Into The Final – Defending Champion Jenny Simpson Looks Great – Women’s 1500 Semis

August 13, 2013

Moscow, Russia – Get ready America.

High school sensation Mary Cain qualified for Thursday’s World Championship 1500m final becoming the youngest 1500m finalist in IAAF history at 17 years, three months and 10 days.

Overall, it was a good day for the Americans, as defending World Champion Jenny Simpson looked great in qualifying for Thursday’s final. Today belonged to Cain however, as she used her great leg speed to secure an automatic qualifying spot for the final. Last-minute US team member addition Sarah Brown did not advance.

Quick recaps and analysis of the two heats which both featured incredibly tight packs, with women running two and three wide for most of the races until the latter stages of the race. There were no big surprises today in terms of who did and did not advance, however there were a few surprises in how a few people looked. We’ll be back tomorrow with a preview of the final.

Heat 1: We Can’t Make This Up: Zoe Buckman Wins and Mary Cain Beats Genzebe Dibaba


1 113 Zoe BUCKMAN AUS 4:04.82 Q PB
2 566 Faith Chepngetich KIPYEGON KEN 4:04.83 Q
3 733 Elena KOROBKINA RUS 4:05.18 Q PB
4 894 Mary CAIN USA 4:05.21 Q
5 330 Genzebe DIBABA ETH 4:05.23 Q
6 567 Nancy Jebet LANGAT KEN 4:05.30 q
7 601 Siham HILALI MAR 4:05.32 q
8 744 Svetlana PODOSENOVA RUS 04:05.36
9 216 Nicole SIFUENTES CAN 04:06.30
10 620 Maureen KOSTER NED 04:08.15
11 780 Sonja ROMAN SLO 04:08.63
12 100 Luiza GEGA ALB 04:08.79

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The Entire Field Together With 480m to Go

This one came down to the final 400m and as evidence by the photo on the right, the entire field was in contention with the top five guaranteed spots in the final. Thanks to a 62 mid last lap, Mary Cain advanced automatically with a fourth place finish in 4:05.21. The heat was surprisingly won by former Oregon runner Zoe Buckman who came in with a 4:05.03 pb but left with a 4:04.82 semi-final win.

Genzebe Dibaba was leading down the homestretch, but she faltered at the end, and Cain ended up one spot in front of her.

Anyone before this race who predicted Buckman would win and Cain would beat Dibaba would have been laughed at.

Quick Take #1: Mary Cain Beat Genzebe Dibaba: We always thought making the final should be Cain’s goal here. Now that that’s been accomplished, everything is a bonus. Cain had the 6th fastest seasonal best in her semi-final so it is not a huge surprise she made the final. She’s that good.

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Coming into the championships, we didn’t see how anyone was going to beat Simpson or Sweden’s Abeba Aregawi and perhaps Genzebe Dibaba. Scratch Dibaba off that list, as she only squeaked in as the final auto qualifier. That means one medal might be ripe for the taking.

Cain has always risen to the occasion this year and she has good wheels so we aren’t 100% ruling it out.

QT #2: Zoe Buckman Won The Heat While we aren’t ruling Cain out for a medal, let’s not get too carried away here. Let’s just enjoy the moment.

Remember this heat was won by Zoe Buckman, who didn’t even make the NCAA final in the 1500 in her last outdoor meet in 2010 and was just third in her last indoor meet in 2011. No offense to Buckman who ran an A+ race, but if we told you coming into the meet that Cain lost to Zoe Buckman in the semifinal, you wouldn’t have been thrilled, would you?

Prominent journalists like the WSJ’s Jason Gay are tweeting about Cain being a 2016 Rio star. That’s a ridiculous amount of pressure to be putting on a 17-year old, particularly a female distance runner, as many teenage women running prodigies don’t age gracefully. Let’s just enjoy the moment. Mary Cain is in the final.

This semi-final was not nearly as impressive as semi-final #2. However, that works both ways, as the fact Buckman could win this heat and Dibaba faltered shows that much of this field is vulnerable. Mary Cain has a tremendous opportunity in the final as she looked at the same level as all seven women from this heat who made the final.

You can listen to two audio interviews with Bucknam we have of here: Part 1 here, part 2 here.

QT #3: Cain is Learning to Run in Traffic: Cain didn’t take our advice about not running the first turn way wide, but we like how she was able to run in the middle of the pack today without freaking out. For all of those of you on the messageboards excited by the fact that she ran much of the race in lane two (hoping she can save ground in the final), we’d point out that very time we saw the two Kenyans in this heat, they were even wider than Cain and running even more ground.

QT #4: The IAAF Helped Cain Navigate the Media: After a bunch of printer reporters were upset that Cain didn’t stop for interviews after round 1 on a slow morning on Sunday, the media assistants had a plan in place tonight to help Cain navigate the mixed zone. A representative from the IAAF walked with Cain as she walked through the mixed zone and tape recorded her thoughts so she could issue a statement without having to stop or be questioned by the media. The interview was then emailed out to select media members.

Here are Cain’s words:

“I felt pretty good. That is my second fastest time ever, 4:05, by about a second, which is pretty crazy as you can imagine for me. My last race was my second fastest, and that didn’t really go great, I had a lot more in me. Geez, they made that hard out there. I’m excited to see what the other girls do, but gosh I’m excited to be automatic (for the final). It was pretty close out there and it came down to a dip. You know when I was younger, like I’m still in high school now, but when I was running in high school competitions, a few times I got beaten by a dip. So I try to master that skill and I guess it worked out, because out of the three of us, I think I was the number one person out there with that dip. So, fourth, I’ll take it any day at the world championships semifinal. Hopefully I’ll do the same thing in the final. That was a pretty hard effort for me, but I remember talking to Nick Symmonds – he is so nice – and he was like, ‘after that Olympic semifinal he was like, there is no way I’m running any faster and he went out there and did it two seconds faster, so I look to him as  a role model. So even though I’m exhausted, hopefully I still have more in the tank. It is definitely a confidence boost.”

Kudos to the IAAF for getting Cain to talk about her race and making it as easy as possible for a high school kid.

Mary Cain en route to the US jr record and yet she barely is in the same picture as Faith Kipyegon Mary Cain en route to the US jr record last year and yet she barely is in the same picture as Faith Kipyegon

QT #5 Coaching and Peaking Make a Difference: Think coaching doesn’t matter? Last year at World juniors, Faith Kipygegon won gold and Mary Cain could barely keep within the same television screen of her as she was  6.05 seconds behind (see photo on right).

This year on May 10th, Kipyegon ran a 3:56.98 pb in Doha. A week later, on May 17th, Cain ran a 4:04.62 pb in California, so Cain was some 7.64 seconds behind.

Today, Kipyegon looked pretty good and she and Buckman did have a little daylight between them and everyone else in the field but she was only .38 ahead of Cain. Because of Kipyegon’s inexperience and youth, we certainly aren’t viewing her as an unbeatable 3:56 runner for Cain. That being said, before Worlds started, one line of thinking was Kipyegon was already cooked, and that definitely is not the case.

Heat 2: Abeba Aregawi, Hellen Obiri, and Jenny Simpson Look Like the Favorites

1 811 Abeba AREGAWI SWE 4:05.66 Q
2 570 Hellen Onsando OBIRI KEN 4:05.76 Q
3 945 Jennifer SIMPSON USA 4:05.79 Q
4 763 Ekaterina SHARMINA RUS 4:06.49 Q
5 376 Hannah ENGLAND GBR 4:06.80 Q
6 217 Kate VAN BUSKIRK CAN 04:07.36
7 659 Renata PLIS POL 04:08.02
8 316 Natalia RODRÍGUEZ ESP 04:09.18
9 598 Rababe ARAFI MAR 04:09.86
10 891 Sarah BROWN USA 04:12.16
11 187 Mimi BELETE BRN 04:14.22

The Top 3 Were Best in this One The Top 3 Were Best in this One

On the last lap of this one, the favorite Abeba Aregawi, defending champion Jenny Simpson, and world indoor 3000m champion Hellen Obiri showed themselves to be the class of the field. Leader to leader, the last lap in this heat was a quick 60.08, whereas in heat #1 it was 62.67.

Jenny Simpson‘s last lap was 60 flat or under as she didn’t have the lead at the bell.

Quick Take #1: The Top Three Here Could Go 1-2-3 in the Final: The top three all looked to be the best in the heat for sure and may possibly go 1-2-3 in the final as well. Aregawi is undefeated on the year, Simpson is the defending champ and Obiri has run 3:58 this year, won the Kenyan Trials and raced Simpson close in two straight races.

QT #2: Simpson Said This Was One of Her Most Difficult Races Ever: We had a chat with Simpson after the race. She’s a great interview and you can listen to the audio interview only here via youtube. A few interesting tid-bits.

Simpson said the physicality and jostling in this race made things difficult and “it took all of my years of racing experience to get through this race” as she joked she thought she ran 1590 meters. She was very happy with the way the semifinal turned out.

When asked if she is 100% right now both physically and mentally, Simpson said she really truthfully thought she was. “That’s what makes me almost more nervous – is that I really am (100% physically and mentally). I feel really good,” said Simpson. “I want to show all of you guys all of the work that I did this year and hopefully that equates to a better (performance) than I’ve ever done.”

We told her that it looked like to us that she kicked a little harder here than in the first round and we wondered if that was on purpose to try to send a message to the likes of favorite Abeba Aregawi. Simpson said it was.

“I want those women up front who I’ve raced close to before and one I’ve never beat, I want them to know that I’m right there (behind them),” said Simpson.

Simpson added she thought it was good that she was in the same heat as Aregawi.

“Yeah it was, because I haven’t been close to her much before. It’s good to get in there and test that out and mentally test that (thought) out (of), ‘You belong here.'”

Simpson also said the last lap didn’t feel like a 60 flat to her (or even slightly faster). “I wouldn’t have guessed that. I’m really ready to go. I’m happy with how felt.”

You can listen to our audio interview of Simpson below.

*Women’s 1500m Semi Flash Photo Gallery

World Championships 2013

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