Mary Cain (athlete)

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Mary Cain
Personal information
Birth nameMary Cecilia Cain
Born (1996-05-03) May 3, 1996 (age 23)
New York City
ResidenceBronxville, New York
Height5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)
Event(s)800 metres, 1500 metres, 3000 metres
Coached byJohn Henwood

Mary Cecilia Cain (born May 3, 1996) is a professional American middle distance runner from Bronxville, New York.[1][2] Cain was the 2014 World Junior Champion in the 3000 meter event. She is the youngest American athlete ever to represent the United States at a World Championships meet after competing in the 2013 World Championships in Athletics in Moscow.

Personal life[edit]

Cain was born in New York City in 1996, the daughter of Charles and Mary E. Cain, and has three sisters, Aine, Catherine, and Mairead. She grew up in Bronxville, New York, in Westchester County, north of New York City, and was noticed in the seventh grade for her running ability. Her main events are in middle distance running. She graduated from Bronxville High School in 2014. She attended the honors program at the University of Portland in Portland, Oregon while competing as a professional athlete for Nike, Inc. In October 2012, she came under the coaching direction of Alberto Salazar, who in 2019 was banned for 4 years from athletics for doping offenses.[3]


Early high school career[edit]

Cain ran for 10 seasons for Bronxville High School, winning numerous state titles, as well as two national titles while still a Bronxville athlete.[which?] In 2010, she was the NYS Class C Cross Country Champion; in 2011, she was both NYS Class C and NYS Federation Champion.[4] She ran the 800 meters at the 2012 United States Olympic Trials and placed 18th, and also ran at the 2012 World Junior Championships in Athletics, where she broke the American high school girl's outdoor record in the 1500 m with a 4:11.01, surpassing the record of Jordan Hasay in the 2008 United States Olympic Trials by over 3 seconds. The effort qualified her to run in the World Championships.[5] She had taken second in the same event the year before.[6]


On January 16, 2013, Cain won the 3000 meter race at the University of Washington Indoor Preview meet, with what should be a record-setting time of 9:02.10 (high school),[7] superior to the 9:08.6 Outdoor record of Lynn Bjorklund set in 1975. Historically no records set indoors at the University of Washington track have been accepted because at 307 meters, the track is oversized, although it is significantly smaller than a normal 400-meter outdoor track. At the world level since 2000, indoor marks superior to the outdoor record are now accepted.[8] But the record for 3000 meters at the High School level is administered to by Track and Field News which sets its own standards. For the accomplishment, USATF named Cain the Athlete of the Week.[9] On January 26, in New York City, she ran the indoor one mile in 4:32.78. The mark beat Debbie Heald's[10] indoor national high school record from 1972 by almost 6 seconds. Even though she had not started her finishing kick yet, her 1500-meter split time of 4:16.11 surpassed Lynn Jennings' record for that distance from 1978.[11] Her time was also more than two and a half seconds superior to Polly Plumer's outdoor national high school outdoor record from 1982. On February 2, 2013 at the Boston Indoor Games, Cain set the high school record in the indoor 2 mile with a time of 9:38.68. Her time was almost 10 seconds superior to Kim Mortensen's outdoor record for the slightly shorter 3200 meters. Shortly after, at the Millrose Games, Cain ran the mile in 4:28.25. Her time improved upon her own records in the mile and her split time at 1500 also improved upon her records. Her mile time was also more than two seconds faster than Gelete Burka's world youth best. Since 2000, the IAAF recognizes indoor records that are superior to outdoor records, however the IAAF does not track the mile distance at the youth level. On May 17, 2013 at the Oxy Distance Classic, Cain ran the 1500 metres in 4:04.62, shattering her own high school record from the previous year and breaking Suzy Favor's American junior record (who was almost two years older when she set the record in 1987). In her first IAAF Diamond League event in June 2013, Cain set an American junior and high school record in the 800 metres with a time of 1:59.51, surpassing Kim Gallagher's records set in 1982.[12] With her time, she became the first American youth, junior or high school female to break the 2 minute barrier. Cain ran 5,000 meters 15:45.46 in Portland, Oregon at Portland Track Festival on June 8, 2013 to set a United States high school national records in track and field. At the 2013 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Cain entered the 1500 and 5000 metres in order to qualify for the 2013 World Championships in Athletics in Moscow, but later dropped the 5000 from her schedule.[13] In a slow and tactical 1500, Cain led most of the final lap until the last 10 meters when she was passed by training partner Treniere Moser and finished in second place with a time of 4:28.76, thus qualifying for her first senior team as a 17-year-old and becoming the youngest American to ever make a World Championships team.[14] At the 2013 World Championships, Cain qualified for the 1500 metres final by placing 13th in the heats with a time of 4:08.21, and 5th in the semifinals with a time of 4:05.21. In qualifying for the final, she became the youngest athlete ever to run in a 1500 metres final in World Championships history. On November 20, 2013 it was announced that Cain was forgoing a college career in order to run professionally with the Nike Oregon Project.[15] On December 3, 2013 she was named "Youth Athlete of the Year" by USATF.[16] She was also Track and Field News "High School Athlete of the Year."[17]


On January 16, 2014 Cain set a new World Junior Indoor Record in the 1000 metres, running 2:39.25 at the Boston University Multi-Team Meet. Her time knocked about a second off of Diana Richburg's hand timed record from 1982.[18] Cain won the race a breath ahead of Moser, who had passed Cain in the closing steps of the National Championships the previous year. East German Katrin Wühn set a faster, automatic time of 2:38.57 almost exactly 30 years earlier in 1984, but that was on an oversized track (a situation very similar to the University of Washington track described above) and therefore that time is not accepted as the record. A week later, in the Boston Terrier Invitational, Cain ran the mile in 4:24.11, improving her American Junior record and missing the world Junior record by .01.[19] Her near even splits were estimated to be 65.5, 66.6, 65.9 and 66.1.[20] On February 8, Cain returned to Boston, across town at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center at the New Balance Grand Prix to put the doubt about the 1000 metres to rest. Running with an elite field that included training partner Treniere Moser, she destroyed the earlier mark by running 2:35.80 while beating the field. Her mark was just over 1.6 seconds off of the open division American record. Two weeks later she won the USA Indoor Track and Field Championships in the 1500 metres. Moser was her closest competitor, almost 3 seconds back, the next closest competitor was almost 6 seconds back.[21] Cain earned a silver medal at the 2014 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 1500 metres in Sacramento, California on June 27 and 29 running 4:06.34 in the final.[22] Cain won a US Junior Outdoor title in Eugene, Oregon at the USATF Junior Outdoor Championships[23] in the 3000 metres on July 5 running 9:15.81 and qualified for the 2014 World Junior Championships in Athletics, in which she won the Gold Medal. Her picture was published on the front cover of the USATF Rule Book for the upcoming 2015 season.[24]


Cain ran a season best 2:02.75 800 meters on Jan 31 at Armory Inv.[25] At the 2015 New York Millrose Games, Cain finished eighth in the women's Wanamaker Mile, a loss she attributed to "growing pains."[26] Cain then raced the 1500 meters at Occidental College for the Hoka One One USATF Mid Distance Classic in May - Cain finished 11th in 4:16.48 (almost 12 seconds slower than 2013 in the same meet) representing the Nike Oregon Project.[27] Cain finished 8th in the 1500 metres final at USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon in 4:16.77.[28] Cain's European summer season included season bests 3000 metres of 9:05.68 in Cork, Ireland and 1500 metres of 4:09.08 in Liege, Naimette-Xhovémont.


Now representing Nike Oregon Project, Cain opened her outdoor season with a time of 4:12.62 in the 1500 meters at the 2016 Drake Relays.[29] A week later at 2016 Oregon Twilight on Pac-12 Network, she placed third in 2:08.50 at the 800 meters invitational at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.[30] On June 17, she finished third in a 1500 meters race in Boston Games in 4:10.84, behind Rachel Schneider and Cory McGee.[31] On June 23, Cain placed third in the 1500 meters in 4:13.16 and eleventh in the 5000 meters in 15:49.32 at Mt. Hood Community College.[32][33] She earned a 1500 roster spot on Team USA at the 2016 NACAC Under-23 Championships in Athletics, and at the 2016 US Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon. she earned a silver medal at the NACAC championship in San Salvador, El Salvador in the 1500 meters with a time of 4:16.86.


In late 2019, the New York Times published a video op-ed, featuring Cain, where she attributes her decline in running performance to adverse coaching in the Nike Oregon Project.[34] In it, Cain claims that the head coach, Alberto Salazar, and his assistants arbitrarily set for her an unreasonably low goal weight, 114 pounds (52 kg).[34] Cain alleges that Salazar routinely shamed her into meeting this weight, and that this, combined with the training regimens, pushed her body into the syndrome RED-S, involving lost menses, for some three years, whereby she accrued five bone fractures.[34] Subsequently, Sports Illustrated published nine other accounts by former Nike Oregon Project runners, going back to 2008, who confirm Cain's claims of "an abusive, toxic culture under Salazar."[35]

Major competition record[edit]

Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
Representing the  United States
2012 World Junior Championships Barcelona, Spain 6th 1500m 4:09.48
2013 World Championships Moscow, Russia 10th 1500m 4:07.19
2014 World Junior Championships Eugene, Oregon, United States of America 1st 3000m 8:58.48
2016 NACAC U23 Championships San Salvador, El Salvador 2nd 1500m 4:16.86

USA National Championships[edit]

Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
Representing the  United States
2012 US Olympic Trials Eugene, Oregon 18th 800m 2:04.11[36]
2013 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships Des Moines, Iowa 2nd 1500m 4:28.76[37]
2014 USA Indoor Track and Field Championships Albuquerque, New Mexico 1st 1500m 4:07.05[38]
USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships Sacramento, California 2nd 1500m 4:06.34[39]
2015 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships Eugene, Oregon 8th 1500m 4:16.77[40]
2016 US Olympic Trials Eugene, Oregon 11th 1500 m 4:13.45

Personal bests[edit]

Surface Distance Time Date Venue Note(s)
Outdoor 800m 1:59.51 2013, June 1 2013 Prefontaine Classic US Natl HS record
1500m 4:04.62 2013, May 17 Oxy High Performance US Natl HS record & NJR
3000m 8:58.48 2014, July 24 World Junior Championships US Natl HS record
5000m 15:45.46 2013, June 8 Portland Track Classic US Natl HS record
Indoor 1000m 2:35.80 2014, Feb 8 New Balance Grand Prix World Indoor Junior Record
1500m 4:06.63 2014, Jan 24 Boston University US Natl Jr (en route to mile)[41]
Mile 4:24.11 2014, Jan 24 Boston University US Natl Jr [41][42] and WYB
3000m 9:04.51 2013, Feb 2 NB Boston Indoor Games
2 Mile 9:38.68 2013, Feb 2 NB Boston Indoor Games US Natl Jr & HS record[43]


  1. ^ Belson, Ken (2012-06-23). "High School Student Starts Summer Vacation by Running in Olympic Trials". New York Times.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-01-04. Retrieved 2013-05-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "AAA Panel Imposes 4-Year Sanctions on Alberto Salazar and Dr. Jeffrey Brown for Multiple Anti-Doping Rule Violations". Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  4. ^ Brazeil, Kyle. "Nike Cross Regional-NY *UPDATED Girls Individ Quals/ Foot Locker Northeast Meet Recap". MileSplit New York.
  5. ^ "USA Track & Field - Results".
  6. ^ "USATF - Events - 2011 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships".
  7. ^ Brazeil, Kyle. "A Record After All". Milesplit New York. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
  8. ^ "12th IAAF World Championships In Athletics: IAAF Statistics Handbook. Berlin 2009" (PDF). Monte Carlo: IAAF Media & Public Relations Department. 2009. p. 546. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 29, 2011. Retrieved August 17, 2009.
  9. ^ "USA Track & Field - Cain named USA Track & Field Athlete of the Week".
  10. ^ Friedman, Steve (2012-12-03). "Debbie Heald Set an Important Record | Runner's World". Retrieved 2016-07-27.
  11. ^ Enowitz, Ben (2013-01-26). "W mile H01 (Mary Cain National HS Indoor Record 4:32.78 - 2013 NB Games)". FloTrack. Retrieved 2016-07-27.
  12. ^ "2013 Prefontaine Classic women's 800 metres results". IAAF. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
  13. ^ "2013 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships entry list". USA Track & Field. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
  14. ^ Layden, Tim (2013-06-23). "Mary Cain shows a talent far beyond her years at nationals". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2013-06-24.
  15. ^ "Oregon Project - Mary Cain joins the Oregon Project". 2013-11-20. Retrieved 2016-07-27.
  16. ^ "USA Track & Field - USA Track & Field announces Youth and Masters Athletes of the Year". 2013-12-03. Retrieved 2016-07-27.
  17. ^ "Track & Field News - The Bible Of The Sport Since 1948". Retrieved 2016-07-27.
  18. ^ "Cain breaks world junior indoor 1000m record in Boston| News". Retrieved 2016-07-27.
  19. ^ "The Oregon Project's Mary Cain sets the U.S. junior indoor record in the mile". The Oregonian. January 24, 2014.
  20. ^ "Display Article". Retrieved 2016-07-27.
  21. ^ "USA Track & Field - Results".
  22. ^ "Status of Entries". USATF. June 24, 2014.
  23. ^ "USA Track & Field - Complete Results".
  24. ^ Lovett, Richard A. (2014-05-20). "Trouble at the Track | Runner's World". Retrieved 2016-07-27.
  25. ^ "USA Track & Field - Outdoor Women".
  26. ^ Gambaccini, Peter. "Teen Star Mary Cain Returns Home Amid Disappointing Track Season", "Runner's World", 27 May 2015. Retrieved on 3 July 2015.
  27. ^ "Hoka One One Distance Classic - FloTrack". 2015-05-14. Retrieved 2016-07-27.
  28. ^ "USA Track & Field - Results - FULL".
  29. ^ "Videos - Women's 1500m Rio Olympic Games Preview - Drake Relays 2016". Usatf.Tv. 2016-04-30. Retrieved 2019-11-09.
  30. ^ " OregonTwilight - 5/6/2016 Women 800 Meter Run Invitational". Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  31. ^ "adidas Boost Boston Games - Day 1 Complete Results". MileSplit United States.
  32. ^ "5000 meters in 15:49.32 at 2016 Stumptown Twilight HP results".
  33. ^ "2016 Stumptown Twilight HP home".
  34. ^ a b c Cain, Mary (November 7, 2019). "I was the fastest girl in the world until I joined Nike". New York Times. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
  35. ^ Chavez, Chris (November 13, 2019). "Inside the toxic culture of the Nike Oregon Project 'Cult'". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  36. ^
  37. ^ 2013 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships results. Retrieved on October 17, 2015
  38. ^ 2014 USA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Retrieved on October 17, 2015
  39. ^ 2014 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships Results. Retrieved on October 17, 2015
  40. ^ 2015 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships results. Retrieved on October 17, 2015
  41. ^ a b "Mary Cain Just Misses World Indoor Junior Mile Mark By .01 - Sets New American Junior Mark Of 4:24.11". January 24, 2014.
  42. ^ "Mary Cain Just Misses World Indoor Junior Mile Mark By .01 - Sets New American Junior Mark Of 4:24.11". Retrieved 2019-11-09.
  43. ^ Women's Two Mile - New Balance Indoor Grand Prix[dead link]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Sydney Holden
USA Track & Field Youth Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
Myles Marshall