State Record Snapshot - Mary Cain Goes Sub-9 in 3000m

While there might not be much track going on in New York State, there is plenty of history to pore through. In our time off, we are looking to revisit all of the State Records for the Outdoor Season. Who these athletes were, where their marks came from, and where are they now. Twice a week, we'll be releasing "Snapshots Of A State Record," where you can learn what it takes, to be put your mark on history. Tune in!

We look here at a record from 2014 for the girls. Enjoy!


Mary Cain is back at the World Juniors championship in 2014 and a lot of changes have occurred for her since the last time she was here. The Juniors are held in even numbered years, while the Seniors version occurs in odd numbered years, so this time it is Juniors. Back in 2012 while still running with the Bronxville HS team, Cain finished 6th in the 1500m at 4:11.01 to set a new US high school record. In 2013 as an unattached runner she ran in all three rounds of the 1500m in Moscow at the World senior championship and finished 10th in the finals against the top runners on the globe, her best time coming in semis when she ran a 4:05.21, 2nd best ever by a high school athlete and little behind the record of 4:04.62 she ran that May in the Oxy High Performance meet.

Now against a younger crowd of World Juniors on July 24, 2014 in Eugene OR, Cain is running as a pro, after having joined the Nike Oregon Project team in November. She also graduated from Bronxville HS a month ago and will soon be starting college at the University of Portland.

And finally, she's not doing the 1500m, choosing instead to double the mileage for the 3000m. That decision has sparked a lot of discussion in the T&F media about which event is the best for her to focus on as she goes up against the top 19-and-under athletes in the world. With a sudden big wave in the distance-running talent pool among American girls that also includes Alexa Efraimson and Elise Cranny, there is high hopes that the US can end its long drought in the events exceeding 800 meters and finally capture a medal.

Cain has run a fairly light schedule during the outdoor season as she worked toward World Juniors. The highlight for her came in the USATF championship when she finished 2nd to 2011 world champ Jenny Simpson with a 4:06.34. All seemed set for her to make another big attempt to lower her own HS record and try to get that elusive American medal. But three weeks before at US Juniors, Cain had switched things up by opting for the 3000m and taking 1st in an outdoor PR of 9:15.81, though 13 seconds behind her best time indoors. Stephanie Jenks got the second spot for the American Worlds team, while Efraimson and Cranny claimed the 1500m berths.

Whether the switch to the 3000m works out for Cain depends on a lot of factors, mainly herself. But she is at least ensuring that all three of America's top young distance runners are heading to Worlds. It also may be giving her a better shot at a medal as the 1500m lineup is headed by two Ethiopian runners Dawit Seyaum and Gudaf Tsegay who have run better than Cain at 3:59.53 and 4:03.21 respectively and are big favorites. Of course the 3000m includes six runners who have run a faster outdoor 3000m than Cain including top seed Lilian Kasit Rengeruk of Kenya at 8:53.41, but she and Poland's Sofia Ennauoi are the only ones who have bettered Cain's indoor mark.

So as Cain heads to the line on Thursday evening at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon, she knows she has a solid shot at a medal, and she also knows that she will have a crowd going berserk for her if she is in contention at the end, the same as they will be doing for Efraimson and Cranny on Sunday for the 1500m.

Cain lines up on the inside for the start of the race as the hip #1 runner from Sweden is a scratch. After the gun she settles into a position near the front as Canada's Gabriela Debues-Stafford takes the early lead. The pace is a bit relaxed for the first few laps, and the favorite Rengeruk takes over the lead and brings the pack through at 3:03.84 for the 1000m and 2 1/2 laps mark. There are spurts here and there, but the pace remains similar through the next 1000m as Rengeruk's Kenyan teammate Valentina Chepkwemoi Mateiko goes to the front for a 2K split of 6:07.39. Cain is still sitting up near the top in a field that has been split in half to eight runners in contention.

Things start to heat up over the last two laps. Though she is near the top in 4th, Cain is in a bit of a tight spot as she is boxed in by the Kenyan duo and Ethiopia's Etagegn Woldu. At the bell with five runners still near the top, Cain starts looking for a escape route while moving up on the inside into 3rd. Going into the last turn she makes her breakout attempt but gets tangled with Mateiko for a moment. After a few strides both runners find their balance, and Cain after riding to the outside goes into her power mode and drives past Rengeruk and into the lead. And yes, with the crowd indeed going berserk, Cain blasts home to win at 8:58.98, with Rengeruk in 2nd at 9:00.53 and Mateiko in 3rd at 9:00.79.

Cain has not only broken the US Junior Women's spell of medal-less results in the long distance events, but she has taken gold. Typically effervescent but humble after the race, Cain said "Wooh, that was fun." Thanking the crowd, she said "There was no place else they would have been that loud for me." Three days later they got loud again for the American girls in the 1500m as Cranny finished 4th and Efraimson 6th.

It was the end of the season for Cain, and she would go on to train with the Nike Oregon Project under Coach Alberto Salazar before terminating the connection in 2019. That story has been told elsewhere, and Cain continues to fight her way back at age 24 for a big comeback, perhaps on the world track scene, or wherever she points her future course.

Before Cain broke the NY state record at US Juniors at 2014 World Juniors with the 8:58.48, the record was held by Cornwall's Aisling Cuffe at 9:13.57, a mark she set while winning the national title at New Balance Outdoor Nationals in 2011. Note that Cain's mark was set as a professional athlete and is not recognized by national associations such as Track and Field News and NASF. Katelyn Tuohy of North Rockland  is listed with the top NY time of 9:09.71 set at 2018 outdoor States.