“The first time I saw her train I said to Alberto, ‘this girl has a chance to make the Olympic team’” - John Henwood, coach in residence.
High school phenom Mary Cain, 16, is ripping up the record books for fun.We speak to her ‘coach in residence’ John Henwood, a former New Zealand 10,000m international, to find out why the New York based teenager is so good.
Going places: USA’s Mary Cain on her way to sixth place in the 1500m at the World Junior Championships last year.
Making the team? And the rest
John Henwood: “I’ve worked with Mary since October. Alberto Salazar is her coach [the former marathon champion who also coaches Mo Farah] . He sets the programme, and I supervise the track sessions and report back to Alberto, who usually calls about five minutes after each session. The first time I saw her train I said to Alberto, ‘this girl has a chance to make the Olympic team’ and Alberto replied, ‘doh, that is a given’.”
You should see her when she’s fresh
“What impressed me so much about her 4:32 indoor mile, when she shattered the 41-year-old high school record, was the fact she didn’t have ideal preparation. That morning she had done a four and a half hour SAT test, and she still produced a good race.”
Re-writing the record books: Mary Cain ran a 4:32.78 mile to demolish Debbie Heald’s national high school standard of 4:38.5, which had stood since 1972.
“Physically, she has an incredible lower half of the body: a long relaxed stride with very straight feet. Last year she ran 4:11 for 1500m and at that point we knew there was so much more to come, because of the type of training she was doing at the time.”
Old head, young shoulders
“Mary also the attitude of an athlete in their late 20s, rather than a 16-year-old. She doesn’t get too concerned if she does not hit the times for every session. Some athletes would get really disappointed with themselves and would not be able to accept this. Mary listens to what Alberto and I say, and she is fine with any explanations we have [for not hitting the times] because she has great confidence in herself.”
“I personally never thought I would be as excited as I was when making the Olympic team, but working with Mary and being part of her success: I’ve got that excitement back again.”