Mary Cain Wins Women’s 3000 – The U.S.’s First-Ever Distance Medal at World Juniors

July 24, 2014

The drought is over.

In the 28-year history of the IAAF World Junior Track and Field Championships, the United States had never won a medal in a race longer than 800 meters. Mary Cain changed that on Thursday night at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., claiming the women’s 3,000 meter title after kicking away from Kenyans Lilian Rengeruk and Valentina Mateiko in the final 200 to win in 8:58.48 after a 62-high last lap. The United States finally has a distance medal, and it is gold. We recap the race and provide results and quick takes below.

The Race

Mary Cain Celebrates Gold (click for photo gallery) Mary Cain Celebrates Gold (click for photo gallery)

This one went off at an honest, but not blazing, pace as the field passed 1k in 3:03.84 (9:11 pace). At 1200 meters, a pack of eight women broke from the field, led by World Youth champ Rengeruk (whose 8:53 PR led the field coming in). Behind her, Mateiko, Ethiopia’s Etagegn Woldu, Eritrea’s Weini Kelati, Japan’s Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu, Cain, Australia’s Jessica Hull and Turkey’s Emine Tuna all ran closely together as the field passed 1600 in 4:54.

The pace remained the same through 2k (reached in 6:07.39) and with 800 to go, all eight women were still there, with Cain in fourth but boxed in behind the two Kenyans and Woldu. The race got going at 2400 meters as Kelati and Hull dropped off: it was down to six.

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At the bell, Cain was still boxed in, with Rengeruk in front on the inside and Mateiko and Woldu flanking her to her right. Takamatsu was a stride behind Cain with Tuna beginning to drop off.

As the final lap began, Cain started to probe for room but could not find any space and had to remain on the inside. As Woldu went wide on the first turn to try and pass the Kenyans, Cain was able to move up on the inside into third. Cain continued to ride the rail on the back-stretch and moved by Mateiko into second with just over 200 to go, but all five women were still in it.

With just under 200 to go (2400 to 2800 was run in 68.66), Cain accelerated in an attempt to pass Rengeruk on the inside into first but, seeing that there was not enough room, had to slow down, in the process bumping into Mateiko, who was coming up on Cain’s right. Those two ran together for a few steps before Cain finally found the space to get around Rengeruk, seizing the lead with 175 to go.

Cain finally went to the front with 175 to go Cain finally went to the front with 175 to go

Immediately, Cain, with her 1:59 800 speed, shifted into a gear that the Kenyans could not match. She had five meters on them at the top of the home stretch and her gap only widened as the delirious Hayward Field crowd roared her on to victory.

“The last 50 meters I just felt so good. I know you’re not really supposed to look up at the screen, but I still was looking up and was like, ‘Oh my gosh I’m in the lead,” said Cain after the race, according to Chris Lotsbom, re-living the moment with an American flag and a Twix candy bar in her hands. “There was nowhere else that they would have been that loud for me. It was surreal.”

Her last lap of just under 63 seconds gave her a time of 8:58.48, barely missing Ceci St. Geme’s U.S. junior record of 8:57.27, a record Cain clearly could smash.

“Most World Championships races are slow in the beginning, especially in the longer distances. So I was mentally, physically prepared for that. I knew there’d be some surges in there, some fartleks,” said Cain according to Lotsbom. “With that being said, if it was going to go 8:40 I was going to go with them.”

Not getting the record is just an afterthought for Cain; her only goal here was the gold medal an accomplishment she was able to savor in a long victory lap with fellow American Stephanie Jenks (who was last in 9:31.47). The crowd clearly loved Cain — and not just the Americans. As she jogged around the track doling out hundreds of high fives and pausing for several selfies, she received warm receptions from the Canadian and Kenyan teams who sat watching in the stands.

Cain’s coach, Alberto Salazar, was thrilled with the victory.

“I’m really pleased with it. The race was the way I thought it would go, a nine minute race,” Salazar said according to Lotsbom. “The plan was to wait to 200 to go no matter what. It was perfect. If they wanted to make it a 200m race, fine.”

Cain will have her own chance to be a spectator now that her work is done. Could she bear witness to another victory lap — and another American distance medal — after Alexa Efraimson and Elise Cranny run the women’s 1,500 final on Sunday?

Results on the right, quick take analysis appears below.

Be sure to discuss this race in our fan forum:

*How fast could Mary Cain go in 3000 time trial right now?
*Who was that guy that cain kissed on her victory lap???

*What is the point of the W 3000 meters at WJ Champs

Details 1 1586 Mary CAIN USAUSA 8:58.48 PB
Details 2 992 Lilian Kasait RENGERUK KENKEN 9:00.53
Details 3 988 Valentina Chepkwemoi MATEIKO KENKEN 9:00.79 PB
Details 4 960 Nozomi Musembi TAKAMATSU JPNJPN 9:02.85 PB
Details 5 582 Etagegn WOLDU ETHETH 9:06.42
Details 6 1488 Emine Hatun TUNA TURTUR 9:06.85 PB
Details 7 177 Jessica HULL AUSAUS 9:08.85 PB
Details 8 508 Weini KELATI ERIERI 9:12.32 PB
Details 9 355 Gabriela STAFFORD CANCAN 9:14.97
Details 10 876 Anna STEFANI ITAITA 9:23.12 PB
Details 11 963 Nao YAMAMOTO JPNJPN 9:24.41
Details 12 1250 Maria Magdalena IFTENI ROUROU 9:26.04 PB
Details 13 1515 Nataliia SOLTAN UKRUKR 9:26.58 PB
Details 14 994 Darya MASLOVA KGZKGZ 9:30.28
Details 15 1600 Stephanie JENKS USAUSA 9:31.47
Details 1195 Sofia ENNAOUI POLPOL DNF
Details 352 Heather PETRICK CANCAN DNS
Details 1400 Sarah LAHTI SWESWE DNS

Quick Take #1: A historic day for teenage American distance running.

For all that American distance runners have achieved at 1,500 and up on the global stage recently — Jenny Simpson’s gold and silver at Worlds, Olympic silvers for Galen Rupp and Leo Manzano, a silver and bronze for Matt Centrowitz at Worlds — it hasn’t translated to the junior ranks. Cain won the U.S.’s first medal of any color in a race longer than 800 meters at World Juniors, and with Efraimson and Cranny in the 1,500 this year (and the potential of Efraimson, who has already run 4:07, returning to World Juniors in 2016) it may be the beginning of a new era for U.S. junior runners.

Or it could just be a fluke that two generational talents like Cain and Efraimson just happened to come through at the same time? We need more evidence before making any sweeping declarations, but fans should appreciate Cain’s medal, which took 28 years for the U.S. to win.

Cain talks after the race:

Race Highlights:

Quick Take #2: Cain and her coach, Alberto Salazar, were vindicated for their decision to run the 3,000.

Some were skeptical that Cain elected to run the 3,000 after making the final at senior worlds in the 1,500 last year, but we explained why the 3,000 was the best option for Cain earlier this week. Cain didn’t skip the European circuit for nothing — World Juniors was the focus, with gold the ultimate goal. And, just like a college coach trying to maximize points at a conference meet, Salazar and Cain deduced that the 3,000 would provide the best shot at gold at World Juniors. Thursday’s result vindicated their decision as Cain was clearly the class of the field over the final 200 meters.

But even Salazar couldn’t imagine how well the pieces would fall into place for Cain. Initially, it appeared that there would be three sub-9:00 women in the field: Rengeruk, Poland’s Sofia Ennaoui and Ethiopia’s Senbere Teferi, who beat Cain at World Juniors in 2012 and ran a world-junior-leading 8:41 at the Doha Diamond League meet in May (Cain’s PR was 9:02 heading in). However, when the start lists came out, Teferi was shockingly listed in the 1,500 (where Ethiopia already had a 3:59 woman and a 4:02 woman). Ennaoui would prove to be a non-factor in the race and did not even finish, leaving only Rengeruk as a serious threat.

Quick Take #3: Let the comparisons between Mary Cain and Ajee Wilson continue.

Because both Cain and Wilson reached such high levels at such a young age, the comparisons between the two are inevitable, even if Wilson is a pure 800 runner while Cain is more versatile.

Before Cain, Wilson was the only U.S. athlete to win gold in a mid-d/distance event at World Juniors (she won the 800 in 2012). That race was only the beginning for Wilson, who is two years older than Cain. When she won that title in July 2012, she had only run 2:00.91 for 800 (Cain’s PR is 1:59.51); she didn’t even make the final at that year’s Olympic Trials, whereas Cain has finished second at USAs the last two years. Since then, Wilson has improved by leaps and bounds, placing sixth at Worlds last year, winning her first U.S. title in June and slashing over three seconds off her PR, most recently by running a world-leading 1:57.67 in Monaco.

Wilson is clearly better in the 800 than Cain is in any event right now as Wilson is #1 in the world right now, but it’s scary to imagine how good Cain could be if she can achieve anything close to the improvement Wilson has since her World Junior title.

Mary Cain Wins Gold (click for photo gallery) Mary Cain Wins Gold (click for photo gallery)

Quick Take #4: Track and Field still needs more head to head matchups.

Re-read our first three points. All the credit in the world in the world should go to Cain and Salazar. But now let us talk as fans of the sport.

In this day and age of Title IX, we must admit we find it a bit odd the women’s 3000 exists – a sentiment expressed by a messageboard poster:

What is the point of the W 3000 meters at WJ Champ?

How cool would it have been for the fans if Cain had been forced to clash against a 3:59 runner in the 1500 or two Ethiopians that wanted Genzebe Dibaba‘s meet record in the 5000? The fans lose out when they see the big stars in different events at the global champs whether it’s Tirunesh Dibaba in the 10,000 and Meseret Defar in the 5,000 at the World Championships or Dawit Seyaum in the 1,500, Cain in the 3,000 and Alemitu Heroye in the 5,000 at World Juniors. Hey the 1,500 hasn’t started yet. Give Cain a wild-card and let her go for gold #2.

More: Race Results Weekly’s recap of this race: Mary Cain Takes 3000m Gold At 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships 

Discussions of this race in our fan forum: *MARY CAIN DOES IT! CAIN WINS 2014 JUNIOR CHAMPS 300 IN 8:58.48!
*How fast could Mary Cain go in 3000 time trial right now?
*Who was that guy that cain kissed on her victory lap???

*What is the point of the W 3000 meters at WJ Champs

*Mary Cain Day 3 Photo Gallery


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