Seventeen-year-old Mary Cain was already a top runner when she began working with legendary marathon coach Alberto Salazar last -October. Since then she’s set more than half a dozen high school records, won a U.S. senior title, and taken her place as one of the best prep runners since, well, ever.
SKILLS: Cain covered the final 400 meters of the mile run at February’s USA Indoor Championships in an astonishing 58 seconds—world-class finishing speed that has insiders gawking. “She’s as talented as pretty much anyone in the world,” says former track star Weldon Johnson, who cofounded and covers running for the website LetsRun.com.
PRIORITIES: Cain is a self-described Harry Potter nerd, and her parents are working overtime to make sure school is her top concern. In early June, the day after becoming the first high school girl to break two minutes in the 800 meters at the Prefontaine Classic, she flew across the country to take her final exams.
ASCENSION: Three weeks later, Cain shocked a field of international professionals with a second-place finish in the 1,500 meters at the U.S. Track and Field Championships, running a 4:28.76.
NEXT UP: Starting August 10, Cain will take on the best at the World Championships in Moscow. If she does well, some think she could pull down a seven-figure deal, a big payday in a sport where a few pairs of shoes can count as sponsorship. And while plenty of high school stars haven’t transitioned well into successful pro careers, Cain won’t need to improve much to win at the sport’s highest levels. “She’s already got all the tools she needs,” says Johnson.