Mary Cain continues to run where no other American high school girl ever before has traveled.
The incoming senior from Bronxville ( N.Y.)
- still running unattached - placed fifth against professional runners in the 800-meter race during the annual Prefontaine Classic on Saturday in Eugene, Ore., in a sizzling 1:59.51, which established a new USA prep and junior (19 and under) national record.
The previous record of 2:00.07 was set by Kim Gallagher in 1982. Gallagher later won a pair of Olympic medals.
The 17-year-old superstar told the Eugene Register-Guard, "I'm still just a star-struck kid. This is a dream come true for me."
Cain, who twice has broken the national 1500-meter record this year, benefited from an extremely fast race, which delighted the sellout crowd of 12,816 at the University of Oregon.
Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi won in a 2013 world-leading time of 1:56.72.
Reigning U.S. champion Alysia Montano was fourth in 1:59.43 and proved to be one of Cain's biggest fans. She told the media, "It's really awesome to see her not succumb to the pressure that everybody's kind of thrown on her at such a young age. She's showing what strength and femininity is. That's what it's all about. I'm just really proud of her."
Cain revealed that she had been "the most nervous I've ever been for a race."
However, she credited her coach, former Olympian Alberto Salazar, for settling her down.
Salazar related, "I told her 'Just go right to the back, hang on and wait for people to die. You're going to pass half the field on the last half-lap, without a doubt' and that's exactly what she did."