Mary Cain introduced as Millrose Games star

Mary Cain introduced as Millrose Games star

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Mary Cain introduced as Millrose Games star

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NEW YORK

Bernard Lagat is one of the great names in the running game, the owner of extensive medal and record collections. Now he was sitting at the dais next to Mary Cain, looking at the nation’s phenom in women’s track and passing out his advice to her at the moderator’s request.

“Have fun in it,” Lagat told her Friday at this New York Athletic Club press conference in advance of the NYRR Millrose Games. “Listen to your coach 100 percent and be disciplined, and the future will be nothing but bright and successful.”

The 17-year-old pro from Bronxville High’s Class of 2014 already has her own vast record collection. She’s scheduled to start chasing a few more as well as a win on The Armory track Saturday at 4:18 p.m., in front of a sold-out Millrose house of 5,000 and a national audience on NBC Sports Network, all watching the NYRR Women’s Wanamaker Mile.

There’s the world junior record of 4 minutes, 24.10 seconds to pursue, the one held by Ethiopia’s Kalkidan Gezahegne, the one Cain missed tying by one-hundredth of a second last month. And then there’s the big one — the American women’s indoor record that has stood since Feb. 19, 1982, the 4:20.5 mark held by Mary Decker Slaney.

“I have a long time to hopefully get a lot of these records, so my real main goal is to run smart,” Cain said. “That’s the thing I kind of sometimes struggle with.”

Alexa Efraimson will be among the competition. The Washington teen recently broke two of Cain’s records, as strange as that sounds. She’s now the fastest high school and U.S. junior girl ever in the 3,000.

“My whole goal is eventually kids will break these records, thinking, ‘Wow, if Mary can do it, so can I,’ ” Cain said.

Cain still comes across as friendly, bubbly and humble, even though she’s more famous now and makes money. She left the Bronxville program in October 2012 to train under Alberto Salazar. Last November, she turned pro and joined the Nike Oregon Project.

“It’s definitely a little weird,” Cain said. “I can check that box off of things to do. Otherwise, it’s not really different at all. I wear the Nike gear, but it’s the same training, same team, same group, same everything. …

“I don’t look at it as a job. I look at it as something I love to do.”

These days, she’s also running full-speed toward graduation. Her next school? The University of Portland. She will be close to her coach and the Nike program.

“It’s definitely crazy to think that next year I’m going to be out on the West Coast,” Cain said. “But I’m definitely excited.”

This 107th Millrose Games is the highest-priced indoor meet ever. Tickets ran from $20 up to $1,000. And they’re all gone. The Cain factor?

“I would say it’s very helpful in many ways, but we sold out the last two years,” said Dr. Norb Sander, the Hastings resident who’s the head of the Armory Foundation.

Cain still figures to be the building’s sweetheart, like last year.

“I have to take it as a positive,” Cain said, “like they believe in me, rather than thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to do this.’ “

Twitter: @bheyman99

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