A prodigy runner and a prodigy swimmer.
Picking between Bronxville (N.Y.)
junior middle distance sensation Mary Cain
and Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.)
senior swimmer Missy Franklin
is like choosing between Porsche models.
In the last eight months, Cain has shattered American high school records in the 800 meters, 1,500 and 5,000.
But last August, Franklin went upon the world stage and brought home five Olympic medals, four of them gold. She then, showing her heart and good nature, swam for her school team and chipped in a couple more state records
The major accomplishments for both athletes came while competing against non-high school athletes. They are, after all, prodigies.
In a season filled with prep phenoms — boxer Claressa Shields
and gymnast Gabby Douglas
also brought home Olympic gold medals from London — Franklin earned the nod.
Four golds against the world is about impossible to match.
At 17, Franklin swept the women's backstroke events, taking the 100-meter and 200-meter events. She currently holds the world record in the 200 backstroke (long and short course) and the American record in both the 100 and 200 backstroke (long course).
What we liked most is that she finished out her prep career at Regis in the winter, winning two more individual titles and anchoring two relays to victory. She led the Raiders to a second-straight 5A state title.
She won the 200-yard individual medley in a national record of 1:56.86, the 500 freestyle in a state record 4:41.72 and anchored the championship 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
After the state finals at the Edora Pool Ice Center, she told the Denver Post
: "Now, I realize why I did this. It's being with my girls for the last time. It's the very last swim with all of them and for me to have a Regis cap on my head."
About the time Franklin was wrapping up her prep swim career, Cain, aided by her first-year coach and former American marathon record holder Alberto Salazar, went on a six-month record roller coaster ride.
She set an American high school 5,000-meter record in the Portland Track Festival at Lewis & Clark College by finishing in 15 minutes, 45.46 seconds. That came a week after Cain broke the national high school and natonal junior record in the 800, going 1:59.51 at the Prefontaine Classic. And that came only 15 days after she broke her own 1,500 national mark by going 4:04.62 in the USATF Oxy High Performance Meet at Occidental College in Los Angeles.
All that came after a superlative indoor track season. On Jan. 26 in New York City, she ran the indoor mile in 4:32.78, breaking a 41-year national mark by almost 6 seconds. It was also faster than the 1982 outdoor mark of 4:35.24 set by Polly Plumer.
On Feb. 2 at the Boston Indoor Games, she set an indoor 2-mile record by going 9:38.68. On Feb. 16, she lowered her own mile mark by going 4:28.25 — a time that was the fastest by an American woman of any age during the 2013 indoor season.
She topped it all on June 22 in Des Moines Iowa, becoming the youngest American athlete to make the team at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. She did that by placing in the top three of the 1,500 – she placed second.
She'll join the USA team in Russia for the World Champions in August.
"You never know where you're going to be years from now," Cain told reporters after her race in Des Moines. "I have the greatest support team — coaches, parents, teammates — so I can still be around years from now. But it's nice to get on that team when you're running good."On the 40th anniversary of Title IX
— equal rights for girls' and women's sports — it was fitting there was so much success among high school girls athletes.
Douglas was actually the
AP Female Athlete of the Year
over Franklin for capturing the all-around gymnastics gold medal and leading the American women win the team gold medal for only the second time.
Douglas, from Virginia Beach, Va., is home-schooled and doesn't compete for a high school team. Thus she wasn't eligible for this award.
Likewise, Shields wasn't eligible because there is no boxing team at her Northwestern (Detroit)
High School. She became the first American woman to win a boxing gold medal
by taking the middleweight crown over Russian Nadezda Torlopova with a 19-12 decision. She was featured in a MaxPreps Beyond the X
profile before the Olympics.
Other girls in the discussion for Athlete of the Year who participated in high school athletics:
* Morgan Andrews
won her second-straight girls soccer national Player of the Year award from Gatorade after the Milford (N.H.)
standout scored 31 goals and added 18 assists for the state-champion
Spartans (16-3-1). Andrews is the captain of the U.S. Soccer Under-17 Women's National Team and a member of the Under-20 and Under-23 national
team player pools.
MaxPreps Girls Basketball Player of the Year Diamond DeShields
, a 6-foot-2 wing, averaged 26 points, 7 rebounds, 4.5 steals and 3.8 assists per game, leading Norcross (Ga.)
to a state AAAAAA title, a 28-5 record and No. 15 Xcellent 25 national
ranking. The daughter of former Major League Baseball infielder Delino DeShields
will play at North Carolina in the fall.
* Daniel (Central, S.C.)
right-handed pitcher Carley Hoover
a 16-4 record with a gaudy 338 strikeouts in 138 innings. She also hit
.500 with four homers and 45 runs. She'll play next year at Stanford.
* Papillion-LaVista South (Papillion, Neb.)
6-3 senior twins Amber
and Kadie Rolfzen
were MaxPreps co-Players of the Year
in volleyball while leading their team (42-1) to a third-straight Nebraska A Division state title and a No. 4 national ranking. Amber recorded 390 kills, 283 digs, 34 aces and 38 blocks while Kadie totaled 369 kills, 49 aces, 38 blocks and 340 digs. The twins will play next season at Nebraska.
* Mercedes Russell
, a 6-5 basketball center, led Springfield (Ore.)
to a 24-4 record and the state 5A championship game by averaging 25.1 points, 12.3 rebounds, 5.5 blocks and 3.9 assists per game. She was the Gatorade and Naismith Girls High School Player of the Year. Russell, who was surprised with the Gatorade award by Maya Moore
, will play at Tennessee next season.