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Americans Race On A Big Stage In London

Star miler Mary Cain flashed a smile on the Mondo track.

Star miler Mary Cain flashed a smile on the Mondo track.

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

LONDON — For young American athletes Jordan Hasay, Mary Cain, and Ajee’ Wilson, competing in Olympic Stadium for the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games here was an eye-opening experience, one that both inspired and intimidated. Their time racing in front of a sold-out crowd of 65,000 helped expose them to a world championships-like surrounding, something they’ll encounter in Moscow at the IAAF World Championships next month.

Hasay, 21, a member of the Alberto Salazar-coached Nike Oregon Project, stepped off the Mondo track with a very large smile across her face, a giddiness audible in her voice. After her first international IAAF Diamond League race, the University of Oregon alum was hooked.

“When I walked out, I knew there was going to be a lot of people. But there were so many,” she told Race Results Weekly. “I just tried to calm myself and [thought] ‘I just can’t believe this is my job.’ It is just incredible. This is only the beginning, my very first one and I was there with a lap to go. It’s exciting.”

Racing in the 3000m, Hasay kept herself towards the front of the field throughout the entire race, rubbing elbows with winner Shannon Rowbury and runner-up Gabriele Anderson. Thriving off the energy of the stadium, Hasay said she set close to an eleven-second personal best; her final time of 8:46.89 was good enough for fifth.

“I just have to work on that finish. It was pretty good today though,” said Hasay, from Arroyo Grande, Calif.

RELATED: Hasay Joins Oregon Project

Racing in the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium is a big jump up from what Hasay is used to — the collegiate tracks of the U.S. When asked if she could get used to her new office, Hasay jumped to answer.

“Definitely, I love it,” she said. “I love what I do. Like I said, when I walked out I was like ‘I just can’t believe this is my job.’ And this is only my first one, it’s an exciting future.”

Hasay added that racing in the IAAF Diamond League will help her come time for the IAAF World Championships 10,000m, for which she is entered.

The same can be said for 1500m runner Cain, who will represent America in the metric mile at the world championships. However, Cain admitted to letting the crowd get the best of her on Friday night.

“It’s a bit overwhelming,” said the 17-year-old from Bronxville, N.Y. “Yesterday at the warm-up, I was like ‘Jordan, we’re good here, this isn’t that big.’ And then today I walked out and was like ‘Oh …’ I was pretty scared. Beforehand I was fine, but getting out there and doing my strides, I felt like the whole crowd just drained me.”

It appeared the crowd overtook Cain in the first kilometer of her race, as the Bronxville High School student stayed towards the back of the field. With a lap remaining, she was in 15th place. In the final 400 meters Cain used the fans to her advantage, making up ground and ultimately finishing fifth.

“Within that last 100 meters I really used the crowd,” said Cain. “I’m glad I ran this instead of the 800m because you’re not always going to have a good race. And I can learn from this.”

One lesson Cain learned in particular is that the race is not always going to play out the way you want it to. Rather, you need to react on the fly and make decisions.

“Now I know in Moscow I can’t just walk right into the final and get a medal,” she said with a laugh.

RELATED: Outkicked: What’s Next For Mary Cain?

Wilson, the 19-year-old from Neptune, N.J., finished third in a valiant effort. Fighting mightily down the homestretch, Wilson was overtaken at the line by Romania’s Elena Mirela Lavric. Finishing second in 2:00.20, she was satisfied with the performance.

“It went pretty well,” said the shy Wilson. “Got a little time ’til Worlds to get it together.”

Wilson, in her second year as a professional, said the race is just another experience to help her in the future.

“I’m getting used to the big crowds and the energy,” she said. “I can’t believe how many people are here, though.”