Three Thoughts On 2015 Hoka One One: It’s Official – Mary Cain Is Struggling, USATF Had Better Finish This Meet, And Where Were The Fast Times?

May 14, 2015

The 2015 Hoka One One Middle Distance Classic that was put on by USATF at Occidental College is in the books – well, at least the 800s, steeples, women’s 1,500 and the first heat of the men’s 1,500. Those were all that were run before lightning caused the meet to be cancelled before the men’s 1,500 could be finished (heat 2 was equal in quality to heat 1) and the 5,000s run.

You can read our meet recap here (it will be live around 10:45 p.m. Pacific), but here are our three quick thoughts about the meet overall.

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1.The fast times didn’t materialize.

Last year was an “off” year in track and field in the sense that there were no World Championships to get ready for. People didn’t need to run fast as there was nothing to qualify for. This year, there is a Worlds and people need to run fast to qualify and yet the times across the board at Occidental this year were WAY slower than last year.

Go figure.

Take a look at the stats for yourself. Everything but the steeples was significantly slower than last year.

Maybe it was just as well that the rest of the meet was cancelled as the part that had been held was certainly a little bit disappointing in terms of the quality of the performances.

Women’s 800
# Sub 2:00 # Sub 2:01 # Sub 2:02
2014 2 3 9
2015 0 2 6
Men’s 800
# Sub 1:46 # Sub 1:47 # Sub 1:48
2014 1 6 12
2015 0 6 6
Women’s 1500
# Sub 4:07 # Sub 4:08 # Sub 4:09
2014 1 8 8
2015 0 2 0
Men’s 1500
# Sub-3:36 # Sub 3:37 # Sub 3:38
2014 2 5 8
2015 0 0 0
Women’s St.
# Sub 9:40 # Sub 9:45 # Sub 9:50
2014 0 0 0
2015 1 3 5
Men’s Steeple
# Sub 8:25 # Sub 8:30 # Sub 8:35
2014 1 3 4
2015 0 4 5

Were the slower times weather-related? We don’t think so. We asked a top coach during the rain delay if he or she thought the weather had caused the times to be slow and he or she replied that the “weather was fine.”

2) Mary Cain fans, it’s time to get nervous.

For the last few months, we’ve been telling people to pay close attention to Mary Cain’s results this spring/summer. What she does over the span of the next few months will greatly impact the Mary Cain narrative that will be told at the end of 2015.

Alberto Salazar Congratulates Mary Cain After Her 4:04.62 National Record (click on photo for more photos)

Alberto Salazar Congratulates Mary Cain After Her 4:04.62 National Record (click on photo for more photos)

If Cain excels, then she’s still the teen phenom – the greatest (or second-greatest) mid-d prodigy in US history. If Cain struggles, suddenly everything changes. The fact that she didn’t PR last summer – even though she won world junior 3000 gold – and struggled this winter becomes a big story if she also struggles this summer.

And after tonight, there can be no doubt about it. Mary Cain is struggling. Tonight, she beat a grand total of one person in her heat (admittedly one with a solid pedigree in 2013 World Championship team member and two-time NCAA 1,500 runner-up Cory McGee) and only ran 4:16.48.

Yes, it’s early in the season. But Cain had already run two 1500s outdoors before this race. She’s now run three 1500s this year and has not broken 4:15 (her seasonal best is 4:15.42). And it was at this same meet two years ago that Cain ran her 4:04.62 pb (LRC Archives: 2013 Occidental High Performance Recap: Mary Cain Steals the Show, Mo Farah Debuts, and Will Leer Keeps Winning). If Cain doesn’t turn things around by the end of the year, suddenly she’s a 19-year-old who hasn’t PR’d in more than two years. Yes, people don’t PR every single year in track and field, but it does make you a little nervous.

We decided to reach out to a top women’s NCAA coach and ask him or her what they thought. Here’s our text message exchange.

LetsRun: is it normal for a woman to not PR at 17-18-19 like mary cain and then turn it around later. her last pb was at this meet 2 years ago. 12:50 AM
Top women’s coach: Yes 12:50 AM
Top women’s coach: I see it all the time 12:50 AM
Top women’s coach: Kids run pr as a junior 12:51 AM
Top women’s coach: Gets hurt or stressed as a senior 12:51 AM
Top women’s coach: Struggles with adjustment issues as a college frosh 12:51 AM
Top women’s coach: Figures it out as a sophomore 12:51 AM
Top women’s coach: She has time. 12:52 AM
Top women’s coach: But she needs to get going soon I think. 12:52 AM

If you are a Cain fan, you can take solace in Jordan Hasay’s career. On her 17th birthday, her 1500 pb was 4:14.50. When she turned 19, she’d only improved to 4:13.85. She was far from done in terms of improving and has gone to have a good career, but not at 1500 and she is far from being a sub-3:55 type as Alberto Salazar has predicted for Cain.

3) This meet had better not be cancelled. USATF needs to run the unfinished races on Friday somewhere in Southern California.

If USATF wants to be treated as a legitimate entity, then the rest of this meet needs to be run. Major League Baseball doesn’t cancel regularly-scheduled games, nor does the NFL. If bad weather comes in, the games are simply postponed.

The fact that the meet organizers have said this meet is “cancelled” is absurd. There are a lot of people who have travelled from all over the globe to run in this meet that haven’t raced yet. There are a ton of tracks in Southern California. Find one, turn on the lights, and shoot the gun off on Friday night. If USATF can’t figure out a way to make this work, can. We’re willing to pay up to $5,000 to rent a track/pay a timer if need be.