NEW YORK – Bronxville (Bronxville, N.Y.) sophomore Mary Cain is unquestionably one of the brightest young talents in U.S. track and field, but the 15-year-old’s decision to switch coaches and break away from the girls team has ruffled some feathers.
Cain finished second in the 800 meters on Sunday at the New Balance Nationals Indoor championships, trailing Ajee Wilson (2:06.58) across the finish line in 2:07.26. Bronxville’s girls competed in several relays without Cain.
She said she is unfazed by the criticism her move from successful girls coach Jim Mitchell to boys coach Ed Stickles.
“I have to do what I think is best and that’s always been my attitude toward it,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier with (my training situation).”
Cain brings a vivacious New York personality to the sport and has all the ingredients to be a star. She loves The Armory and is friendly to her competition. She broke the ice with the Neptune (Neptune, N.J.) senior Wilson before their race by approaching her in the bathroom and asking whether she would like to warm-up together.
“I like talking to people beforehand,” she said. “It’s nice to be happy for the person. I always meet the nicest people at track meets.”
This spring, Cain, who turns 16 on May 3, has the Olympic Trials in sight as an ambitious goal.
“Why not shoot for the stars?” she said. “I’m not sure what event would be my best (this spring). I’ve run more 15s, the 800 is more technical and tactical and I don’t have much experience with it. At some point we’ll make a call on that. Who knows, maybe (the 800) will be my race.”
Robertson out to back up his record
Berea (Berea, Ohio) senior Donovan Robertson ran so well on the way to his 7.57-second national record in the boys’ 60 hurdles at the Brooks PR Invite in Seattle that he feels some pressure to back it up.
On Sunday, Robertson won an intensely competitive final against Potomac (Oxon Hill, Md.) senior Dondre Echols and Martin Luther King (Lithonia, Ga.) senior Jordan Moore and won, partly, because he was willing to dive for the finish line. Robertson said afterward he wasn’t sure if it was a lunge or fall caused by leaning too far forward, but the fall was worth it. He ran 7.70 seconds to win the national title, .01 seconds in front of Echols.
“I met all these (other top hurdlers) in Seattle and I know I had a big target on my back,” Robertson said. “The second to last hurdle I could feel them pushing up. I knew I had to try something (to win).”
Physical finish to girls two-mile
Neither Sachem East (Sachem, N.Y.) senior Rachel Paul nor McGill-Toolen (Mobile, Ala.) junior Carmen Carlos were willing to yield in the final 20 meters of the girls two-mile.
Paul had sped into the lead on the final lap, but in the last few strides she could sense Carlos coming up. Five meters before the finish line, Carlos inadvertently bumped Paul as she passed on the inside. The contact sent Paul sprawling to the ground as she hit the finish line, and at least one runner behind them had to jump over her to complete the race.
“I felt something,” Paul said. “We were both going at it.”
“I tried not to touch you,” Carlos said to Paul.
“I think when you’re running that fast the slightest thing can cause you to fall,” Paul said.
There were no hard feelings. Meet officials reviewed the incident and decided the contact did not warrant a disqualification.
Carlos won in 10:25.30. Paul was second in 10:25.82.
Throw1Deep has a new star on the horizon
The Georgia-based throwing club led by coach Mike Judge brought 20 athletes to the New Balance National Indoor meet.
In addition to championship winners Avana Story (girls weight throw) and Torie Owers (girls shot put), a young new phenom emerged on the boys’ side.
Freshman Kenneth Brinson, from Marist (Atlanta, Ga.), PR’d by more than three feet and won the emerging elite weight throw at 64-4, a freshman class U.S. record.
The 14-year-old began throwing two weeks ago after his wrestling season ended. He placed second in the 195-pound weight class at the Georgia state championships.
“The previous record was held by Wes Wright, who threw 63-6 and he became my best ever (boy) and threw 81 feet,” Judge said. “Kenneth has that kind of ability.”
Another athlete who has taken advantage of Judge’s expertise is multi standout Kendell Williams, the national champion in the heptathlon. Williams won the indoor pentathlon, the high jump and was a finalist in the 60-meter hurdles.
But Williams’ lack of firepower in the throws is a weakness to her heptathlon and so she sought out Throw1Deep.
“Last year my PR in the shot put was 32 feet and I only did that one time,” she said. “Now, in practice I’m hitting 32. And in a meet last week I hit a 34.”
Barber combines diving with pole vaulting
Shawnacy Barber, a senior from Kingwood Park, Texas, has added the sport of diving to break up the daily routine of pole vault workouts.
“Diving and pole vaulting covers a lot of the same ground,” said Barber, who placed second at NBN Indoor with a 16-8 clearance. “They both take a lot of kinesthetic awareness in the air. They don’t work me too hard in the dive class (at school). I like that. It lets me get out and go do my vaulting after school.”
Barber’s dad built a gym with rings, a trampoline, pole vault pit and other stuff that Shawn played with growing up.
“It was almost like gymnastics (in the room) but with no rules,” he said. “I grew up with that the first 10 years of my life and then stopped for a while.”
Barber’s best dive is a reverse one and a half with a one-half twist. He placed seventh in the Class 4A Swimming and Diving Championships two weeks ago in the 1-meter springboard event.
Can diving help him in vaulting?
“Core strength helps,” he said, “and knowing how far away you are, a foot or two away from the board. It’s that awareness in the air of knowing where you are, same as pole vault.”