Cain Vs. Efraimson Fizzles – 3 Thoughts On The Women’s 1,500 Semifinals

June 27, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The much-anticipated teenage phenom matchup between Alexa Efraimson and Mary Cain proved to be no contest as Cain advanced with ease to the final and Efraimson bombed out over the final 250 as the women’s 1500 semifinals were held today at the 2014 USATF Outdoor Championships here at Hornet Stadium.

Running in heat two, Cain was glued to the shoulder of former world champion Jenny Simpson throughout. Just a few meters behind, Efraimson was in fourth as she’d looked focused on staying near Cain during the second half of the race.

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On the final lap, Cain made a move up on Simpson’s shoulder with 200 to go. As she was doing this, Efraimson started to fade, and she’d fade in a big way all the way back to a non-qualifying 7th in 4:12.89.

Cain herself had moved too early as Simpson pulled away with ease to win the heat in a convincing 4:09.08. The New York / New Jersey Track Club’s Stephanie Charnigo surprisingly gunned down Cain late for second in 4:09.00 to Cain’s 4:09.08. That was a big PB for Charnigo (4:10.91 previously).

In heat 1, the comeback of 2011 world #1 Morgan Uceny gained some real momentum as she took the win in 4:09.74 as the top four were very close. Katie Mackey was second (4:09.89), Gabriel Grunewald third (4:10.07) and Heather Kampf fourth (4:10.13).

Our thoughts on the races and post-race interviews all appear below. Full Results are at the bottom of this article.

1) The talk about a Cain-Efraimson rivalry was great for the sport but premature.

We know many people thought Cain had been avoiding the other high schoolers and was vulnerable to Efraimson at USAs. However, we kept telling ourselves, “Cain may not be as running as well as she was at this point last year, but on a subpar day at Pre, she still ran significantly faster (2:02.31) than Efraimson’s 800 pb (2:03.26).”

MB: Yes, that’s right, Cain just cruised to beat Efraimson

2) This is going to be a great final.

We’d be stunned if Simpson doesn’t win her first US 1500 title (yes you heard that right, the World Champ has never won a USA 1500m title) but the battles for the places behind that are full of intrigue. Uceny, Mackey, Grunewald and Kampf were all separated by less than .50 of a second in heat 1. How will they stack up with Cain?

3) Abbey D’Agostino made the right call in shutting down her season and not coming to USAs.

What does a 5000 runner have to do with the women’s 1500 semis you ask? We answer. D’Agostino didn’t come to USAs as she felt tired and clearly wasn’t her best at NCAAs. It was likely to just get worse if she came to Sacramento.

The same could be true for Villanova’s Emily Lipari. Unbeatable indoors and outdoors until NCAAs where she didn’t contend for the win, Lipari was way back here today, last in heat one in 4:20.62.

Jenny Simpson excited to go for U.S. 1500 title #1

Simpson led the entire heat and said she felt good doing so and was excited to make the final. Simpson said that it was weird for her to be announced as a two-time World Championship medalist in the 1500 even though she has never won a national title at the distance. The announcement was made as Simpson was standing on the start line and she said it made her realize that she better win Sunday’s final. It wasn’t totally odd to Simpson though, as she noted she won an NCAA title before winning a conference title while at Colorado.

We also asked Simpson about her thoughts on the two high school sensations, Cain and Efraimson, and she said that it’s a completely different atmosphere to when she was in high school. She would have no idea what other girls were running around the country, but now it’s easy to check results of meets online and see who’s running fast times. Simpson also said that there’s no way she would have been able to commit herself to running as much as Cain and Efraimson have in high school.

Alexa Efraimson had to be helped by an official through the mixed zone and did not stop to talk to the media.

She was struggling to walk and looked exhausted.

Mary Cain Called This A “Rust Buster” 1500 After Coming In Only 800s This Season

Cain said she was visibly and audibly winded at the end of this heat and admitted that it felt more uncomfortable than usual as she wasn’t used to the extra distance. She said that they’re training to peak in August so she isn’t “super duper sharp” here. However, she said that her training has been going well and even recently ran her second fastest 400 ever with 55.9. She said that at the end she looked at the scoreboard and saw she was comfortably in second so let up, saying, “oh whatever, I got nipped at the line, but on Sunday I’ll [lean]”.

Moving the conversation towards racing this summer, we asked Cain why she decided to do the 3000 at World Juniors instead of the 1500. She said that the main reason was it is only one race instead of two so she can train through it and also thought it would be fun as she remembers watching World Juniors in 2012 when Brit Emelia Gorecka was 3rd as the “top white girl”.

Gabriele Grunewald said that the DQ controversy at U.S. indoors took a toll on her and she actually took a little time off after indoors to recharge.

The first thing Grunewald, who won the U.S. indoor 3k title after she was initially disqualified, said after her heat was “I’m back.” Grunewald had a slow start to the outdoor season, running just a 4:17 1500 at the Drake Relays in April and a 9:42 3k in Jamaica in May. And even though she ran 4:10 in New York two weeks ago, she felt that she came into USAs under the radar because she was only the seventh American in that race. But Grunewald closed well today and said that she’s confident heading into the final.

We also asked her about how she felt to be back at USAs after what happened in her last USA championships indoors and Grunewald said she was happy to be back but that the situation indoors was very tough on her mentally. But she went on to say that she’s now made the final at USA outdoors five straight years and that she believes that experience will help her in Sunday’s final.

Morgan Uceny Said It Was A Erratic And Physical Prelim But Her Experience Helped Her Execute Well

Asked if in a physical race like that she had any flashbacks to her falls from the 2011 World Championships and 2012 Olympics and she said it isn’t something she even thinks about as “each race now is fresh” and you can’t worry about the past or future, just that moment.

Katie Mackey Says She “Really Really Wants It This Year”

Mackey said she’s hoping it’s a fast final rather than tactical as one of her big goals for the season is to get 4:02 (her PR is 4:04.60) and she thinks she can get that in the final if it’s fast.

Kate Grace Was 4th In The 800 Last Year And Says She’d Like To Finish Higher Than That This Year

Grace said she is interested to see what happens in the final whether it’s tactical or fast, but she’s fine with either. She is really happy to be running with Oiselle who she describes as “such huge track fans” and enjoys the support during the races as they go “balls wild” for everyone during track meets. Talking about leaving the NJNY TC and moving back West she says she knew it was the best decision for her and loves being back on the West Coast.


Heat 1

Place Athlete Time
1 Morgan Uceny
4:09.74 Q
2 Katie Mackey
Brooks / BROOKS Beasts TC
4:09.89 Q
3 Gabriel Grunewald
Brooks / Team USA Minnesota
4:10.07 Q
4 Heather Kampf
Asics / Team USA Minnesota
4:10.13 Q
5 Cory McGee
4:10.88 q
6 Stephanie Brown
4:11.06 q
7 Lauren Johnson
Nike / Oregon TC Elite
8 Kerri Gallagher
9 Amanda Mergaert
10 Allison Peare
11 Lauren Paquette
12 Emily Lipari
DNF Lea Wallace
DNS Laura Thweatt
Boulder Track Club
DNS Angela Bizzarri
Brooks / BROOKS Beasts TC

Heat 2

Place Athlete Time
1 Jennifer Simpson
New Balance
4:08.36 Q
2 Stephanie Charnigo
4:09.00 Q
3 Mary Cain
Nike Oregon Project
4:09.08 Q
4 Kate Grace
4:09.55 Q
5 Amanda Eccleston
4:09.65 q
6 Sarah Brown
New Balance
4:10.78 q
7 Alexa Efraimson
8 Nicole Schappert
Hoka One One / New York Athlet
9 Melissa Salerno
New Balance
10 Hillary Holt
College of Idaho
11 Amanda Winslow
Oiselle / New Jersey New York
12 Rebecca Tracy
DNF Heather Wilson
DNS Christina Cazzola
University of Wisconsin-Oshkos
DNS Brie Felnagle

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