Mary Cain, 20, ran her first professional race without the Oregon Project crest on her uniform on Sunday in Boston. She placed third in the Mayor’s Cup cross-country meet, finishing the 5K in 17:08.
The race came two days after she announced on her blog that she is no longer coached by Alberto Salazar and has left his Portland, Oregon-based training group, though she’ll continue as a Nike-sponsored athlete. Cain has returned home to New York, is attending Fordham University full time, and is coached by John Henwood, who competed in the 2004 Olympics for New Zealand in the 10,000 meters.
“It was kind of a natural transition in that for the foreseeable future I don’t see myself leaving New York,” Cain said after the race on Sunday. “It’s good to have somebody who is there to see you day-to-day, even hop into some runs with you. Having John be able to really take control of my training, I think it will be really imperative for my success over the next few years.”
Cain began capturing widespread attention in 2011 when she set the high school freshman 1500-meter record of 4:17.84. By the following year, Salazar had started advising her training from afar while Henwood oversaw her daily workouts near her Bronxville home. In 2013, Cain set the U.S. junior two-mile and 1500-meter records, as well as U.S. high school records in the 800 meters (1:59.51) and 5,000 meters (15:45.46). She also announced that she would forego NCAA eligibility to sign a Nike contract and join the Oregon Project.
Her transition across the country after graduation, where she enrolled at the University of Portland, marked the beginning of a difficult period in her running career, as she was unable to match the times and finishing places she had achieved as a high school athlete. In May 2015, she returned home to New York but said she remained a member of the Oregon Project and that Salazar was still her coach.
But Cain’s performances still lagged behind expectations. At the U.S. Olympic Trials in July she finished in 4:13.45 for 11th in the 1500 meters.
Henwood said in an interview with Runner’s World that he took control of Cain’s training about six months ago and that there’s been no clash with her former coach.
“She just wanted the change,” he said. “She wants to enjoy running.”
Henwood added that Salazar “has always been there for us when we need him. We love Alberto. We’ve learned a lot from him.”
Cain said she hopes to compete in a few more cross country races this season before returning to the track for a couple of winter indoor races. The 2017 IAAF World Championships in London will likely be a primary goal in the summer, though Henwood said that they have yet to discuss it.
“We’re taking one step at a time,” he said. “I think it’s important to her that we get back without putting those things in her mind.”
Thanks to Race Results Weekly for this post.