Mary Cain has emerged as a bona fide track and field sensation, competing professionally while still a high school senior and earning plaudits at each step along the way. While her decision to forego amateur eligbility for higher competition initially sparked skepticism in the running community, few are questioning her decision now.
In fact, Cain’s decision may have inspired another budding track phenom to follow in her prodigious footsteps already. A year on from Cain’s decision to partner with Nike coach and former marathoning phenom Alberto Salazar, Washington teen Alexa Efraimson may make the same leap.
The reasons for Efraimson’s potential move mirror Cain’s. A 1,600-meter specialist, she recently topped the all-time prep record in the event by more than a half second, clocking a 4:33.29 (ahead of the 2008 mark of 4:33.82 by then-California sensation Christine Babcock). The Tacoma News Tribune has reported that Efraimson’s sole goal in life is to become a professional runner, and she has spent so much time running by herself in area and state meets that going pro might be the only way for her to find legitimate competition in her speciality. Only Cain has recorded a faster indoor mile in the 18-and-under age group, and Efraimson is suddenly within striking distance of that time as well.
Just how dominant is Efraimson against her current competition? She finished more than 15 seconds faster than the 1,600 runner-up at the Washington state meet.
Of course, if she went directly to professional competition, Efraimson would pass up collegiate competition, a rite of passage that she may not be entirely comfortable foregoing just yet.
Still, at the end of the day Efraimson is clearly chasing competition. Take this quote from a recent News Tribune profile as a single example:
“I look back at my running log from my freshman year, and it says things like, ‘Yeah, I didn’t feel like running today.’ I just feel so much more focused and determined now,” Alexa said.
“But honestly, I don’t see myself as a national-caliber runner. I just want to be the best I can be, and I think it’s just about always trying to continually get better.”
Focused and the best she can be. Efraimson can do that in college or at the professional level very soon. Either way, she seems to have a bright track future ahead of her. The only difference may be how many people can get in the same frame as she is at the finish of a big race.