Penn Relays: Cain sets record in girls' high school mile

Mary Cain , from Bronxville High in New York, celebrates after winning in girls' high school mile in 4:39.28.
Mary Cain , from Bronxville High in New York, celebrates after winning in girls' high school mile in 4:39.28. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: April 27, 2012

MARY CAIN has heard the story umpteen times. Oops, let's make that umpteen-and-one.

The latest retelling occurred Thursday as Cain, with her father doing the driving, rode from Bronxville, N.Y., a New York City suburb, to Franklin Field to compete in the 118th Penn Relays.

Fifty-seven years ago, her grandpop could have been part of a title-winning high school relay team in that very same stadium.

"There was a little controversy with his race," Cain said. "His team technically won, but the anchor man stepped under the finish line instead of breaking it, so the other team got first place."

Ah, long simmering family frustration. In part, that probably explains why Cain, who attends Bronxville High, was so joyous for so long early in the evening after winning the scholastic version of the girls' mile run.

While waiting to accept her watch, and then again as she posed on the victory stand, Cain's face displayed nothing but a mega-kilowatt smile and she kept adding countless thumbs-ups.

The 5-6, 105-pound Cain not only won the event. Her time of 4:39.28 broke a 4-year-old meet record by 2-odd seconds and even came within just over four ticks of the national mark. Imagine if she had not slowed down for maybe the last 10 steps.

As Cain, who was not really challenged, crossed the finish line, the PA announcer began detailing her accomplishments.

How she'd just eclipsed the record, of course. And how she'd run her last lap in 62.5 seconds.

He then mixed in the slightest of pauses before adding, " . . . and she's only a sophomore!"

The spectators' "ooohhhhhs" were numerous.

"I won't turn 16 'til next week. Seven days to my birthday. Early birthday present. Yay!" Cain gushed. "It's exciting to do this as a sophomore. It means I'll be back for a couple more chances."

Cain, whose converted PR of 4:38 goes back to late last spring, entered the race as the No. 2 seed behind Angel Piccirillo, of Pennsylvania's Homer Center High (about 20 miles northwest of Johnstown), the winner in 2010 and again in '11. This time Piccirillo placed second in 4:47.49.

"I liked seeing the No. 2 on my card," she said. "The last race I ran, I was No. 3 and didn't get a good start off the line. I was really boxed in. At No. 2 I knew I'd be able to get out better.

"To run such a good time so early in the season, that has me really excited. I hoped to God I would run like this, but I didn't know that I would. I knew Angel was an amazing runner. I wanted to keep my head and run my race, and that's what I did."

Pause. "Mostly, I just wanted to come in here and have fun."

With 600 yards to go, fun became all-out business.

"I told myself, 'I have a kick to mess with,' " she said. "And then in the last 400, I said, 'I'm just going to kill it. Give it everything I have.' I kept moving in the last 200 and thought, 'A watch. Let's get a watch!'

"Really, Angel was like an angel to me. She took the lead from me at the end of the second lap going into the third, but then I said, 'No, I want this so bad!' When I crossed the line and heard the announcement about the 62.5, I said, 'Wow, that is so cool!'

"I wasn't really thinking about getting a special time. It was about trying to win. Competing. Competing. Competing. But to run a sub-4:40 time, that's very special."


Online high school coverage at philly.com/rally.

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