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American Mary Cain Breaks High School 800m Record

She shatters a 31-year-old American high school mark.

She shatters a 31-year-old American high school mark.

(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

EUGENE, ORE. — Athletes took advantage of warm, sunny and dry conditions and the cheers of an enthusiastic crowd on Saturday, and set the track at Hayward Field on fire with all-comer and meeting records, world leaders, and a sensational American high school and junior record by 17-year-old Mary Cain.

Cain, from Bronxville, N.Y., competed in the IAAF Diamond League section of the 800 meters, and showed  — again — that she is the greatest prep middle distance girl in American history. Running at the back of the field for the first lap as pacemaker Monica Hargrove hit the 400m mark in 57.05 seconds, Cain began to move up steadily with 300m to go. She told herself she needed to get engaged with the race if she wanted to break two minutes, something no American high school girl had ever done.

“Part of me was out there thinking nobody has done this before,” Cain told the media after her race. “I’d be the first one to do it; that’s been my dream since, like, eighth grade.”

Sweeping through the final curve, Cain moved up to fifth position, nearly passing four-time national champion Alysia Montano. She clocked 1:59.43, shattering Kim Gallagher’s 31 year-old American junior and high school record of 2:00.07.

“I just hope to inspire future kids,” said Cain, wearing a red flower in her hair which was given to her by Montano. “The barrier’s been broken; you can do it!”

Cain’s father Charles, an anesthesiologist, watched the race from the stands, furiously snapping photos with his digital camera.

“She’s lionhearted, she really is,” he told Race Results Weekly, brimming with pride. “She wanted this and just went and did it.”

Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba, the 2012 African champion, won the race going away in 1:56.72, close to her own national record and a world-leading time by three seconds. Behind her, American Brenda Martinez smashed her personal best in second place, clocking 1:58.18.

“It felt really good,” said Martinez, who is coached by Joe Vigil. “I just had to learn to be really patient and not worry about the first lap; you don’t win the race on the first lap.”

In the men’s two-lap contest, which saw the withdrawal of Olympic champion David Rudisha two days before the meet, Ethiopia’s Mohammed Aman got the win in 1:44.42. Hayward Field favorite Nick Symmonds finished third in 1:45.40 behind Olympic bronze medalist Timothy Kitum (1:45.16).

“I’m more concerned with winning USA’s,” said Symmonds, who lives in nearby  Springfield. “I haven’t done any 800 meter-specific training.”

The men’s 5000m also produced a world-leading time as Kenya’s Edwin Soi, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist at the distance, got a surprising last-lap victory over reigning Olympic 5000m and 10,000m gold medalist Mo Farah. Soi, Farah, Ethiopia’s Yenew Alamirew, Kenyan Thomas Longosiwa, and Americans Bernard Lagat and Dathan Ritzenhein were part of a 15-man group with two laps to go in the 12.5-lap race. There was a lot of contact in the pack.

“That was just a physical race,” Ritzenhein told reporters, his shins bleeding from spike wounds. “Like a tactical, championship kind of race feeling. Just spiked all up, pushing and shoving.”

At the bell, Farah, Longosiwa, Alamirew and Soi pulled away from the others, setting up a man-against-man sprint between Farah and Soi in the homestretch. Soi managed to turn a sub-54-second lap to get the win in a world-leading 13:04.75, handing Farah his first defeat in a 5000m final since August, 2010. Farah was timed in 13:05.88, and Alamirew got third in 13:06.45. Twelve men broke the IAAF World Championships “A” standard of 13:15.00, but Canadian Cam Levins was unlucky in 13th place, clocking 13:15.19. Nonetheless, it was a personal best for Levins, and he became the second-fastest Canadian of all time behind Jeff Schiebler.

In the Bowerman Mile, the meet’s final event, Asbel Kiprop had hoped to win a record fourth title. Off of a very fast pace, he was perfectly positioned in the final sprint and was focused on holding off Ethiopia’s Aman Wote. But behind him on his right, he didn’t see Kenyan compatriot Silas Kiplagat coming, who nipped him at the line, 3:49.48 to 3:49.53. Kiplagat’s time was also a world leader.

“I was surprised in the last five meters,” said Kiprop, who nonetheless ran his fifth consecutive sub-3:50 at the Prefontaine meet. All 15 finishes broke four minutes (last place Ryan Gregson ran 3:57.08), including 2011 IAAF World Championships bronze medalist Matthew Centrowitz, who set an outdoor PB of 3:51.79 in 10th place. He wasn’t pleased with his performance.

“I definitely didn’t want to be coming into this race mixing it up in the back,” said the ultra-competitive Centrowitz, who came from a high altitude training camp just before the meet.

The women’s 1500m was also a very fast race, generating a USA all-comers record of 3:58.58 by Kenya’s Helen Obiri, last year’s IAAF World Indoor Championships 3000m gold medalist. Behind her, another 11 women broke 4:06, including a resurgent Treniere Moser who clocked a lifetime best 4:02.85, the fastest by an American this year. She said she wasn’t surprised based on how well her training was going.

“I had done this crazy workout with Alberto (Salazar), and all year he’s been telling me, ‘you need to run fast,'” Moser told Race Results Weekly. “I knew it was coming together.”

There were fireworks in the men’s 3000m steeplechase in the final sprint between Kenya’s best junior and senior steeplers, Conseslus Kipruto and Ezekiel Kemboi. Kemboi had a several-meter lead coming over the final barrier, but Kipruto began to close him down on the inside. In order to stop Kipruto from passing him, Kemboi veered to his left, then threw out his arm, forcing Kipruto to take two steps on the infield. Nonetheless, Kipruto managed to make the pace and got the win in 8:03.59 to Kemboi’s 8:03.94, giving Kipruto two of the four fastest times in the world this year.

“He pushed me,” Kipruto said bluntly of Kemboi. “I don’t know [why].”

In the longest event in this meeting for women, three-time Olympic gold medalist Tirunesh Dibaba got a scare from Kenya’s Mercy Cherono, and had to use all of her strength to hold off Cherono in the final lap. Dibaba ran a 60-second circuit to win in a world-leading 14:42.01, unseating her younger sister Genzebe, exactly half a second up on Cherono. Margaret Wangari Muriuki got third in 14:43.68.

“The pacemaker was not to my expectation,” Dibaba complained to reporters through an interpreter after the race. “I thought they were going to go six laps [they only went four], so I was not really happy with that.”

Back in ninth place, American Kim Conley ran a personal best 15:09.57 and locked-in her IAAF World Championships “A” standard. She was pleased with her performance, running much of the race alone and off of the pace.

“I’m learning to wrap my head around being established,” Conley said. “I felt really within myself from five or six laps. The way it worked out for me was great.”

The Prefontaine Classic was the fourth stop of the 2013 IAAF Diamond League. The series continues on June 6 in Rome with the Golden Gala, before moving to Oslo for the Bislett Games on June 13.