Indoor Track: Will Mary Cain Assault Mary Decker's Indoor 800 Meter Record?

Red Shannon@@rojosportsFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2013

Apr 26, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Mary Cain of Bronxville (left) and Angel Piccirillo of Homer Center lead the girls mile in the 118th Penn Relays at Franklin Field. Cain won in a meet record 4:39.28. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Within the hallowed vaults of indoor high school mid-distance records, there are not many kingdoms left to conquer for 16-year-old Mary Cain.

In the two weeks since January 26, the Bronxville, N.Y., junior has methodically picked off the national high school records in the 1,500 meters (4 minutes,16.11 seconds), one mile (4:32.78) and two miles (9:38.68). She already owns the crown in the outdoor 1500 from last summer at 4:11.01.

And Cain has not just politely nudged the records off their high perches—she has cut them off at the knees.

As in, demolished. Obliterated. Vaporized.

There remain but two indoor distances considered to be "major" among the circle of mid-distance runners—the 3000 and the 800 meters.

In mid-January, Cain won her 3000-meter race in Seattle in 9:02.70, shattering Melody Fairchild's 1991 record by 15 seconds. Regrettably, the time will not be ratified as a record because it was run on an oversized indoor track.

But it should be safe to say that, in regards to the 3000, an official record is simply a matter of (a very short) time.

The 800, however, may provide some stubborn resistance to Cain's onslaught.

First, the time itself (2:01.80) seems almost unattainable by a high school runner...indoors. Indeed, it has stood in defiance of all challengers since 1974.

Second, the holder of that record is the same person Cain is most frequently compared to—Mary Decker Slaney—arguably America's greatest female distance runner ever.

And while Cain (at least on the track) has shown little regard for tenure or notoriety of records, the 800 may not be dominant in her wide range of running virtuosity. Her personal best indoor time is 2:07.26 from last March.

The best high school time so far in 2013 is Sabrina Southerland's 2:09.67.

It wouldn't be surprising if Cain's mentor, distance legend Alberto Salazar, chooses to withhold her from any record attempt in the 800 this season. Perhaps he might allow a low-key appearance as a speed workout, but Salazar's focus this year has been to improve Cain's strength and distance tactics.

Also remember, Cain is just a junior. If she can nail down an official time in that 3000 in 2013, most of the records she'll be chasing next year will be her own.

Then, with another year of seasoning under Salazar's tutelage, Decker's record might well become the piece de resistance in Cain's personal renovation of those hallowed vaults.

Looking ahead

Watch Mary Cain as she runs with professionals Sheila Reid and Sarah Bowman Brown and collegian Jordan Hasay in the 106th Millrose Games' Wanamaker Mile, February 16.

ESPN3 will provide live coverage from 7 p.m. ET.