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NEW YORK -- When Alberto Salazar took over coaching high schooler Mary Cain last October, he knew that he would only be able to see the 16-year-old star from Bronxville, N.Y., intermittently; Salazar lives 2,900 miles away in Portland, Ore., and already has a full plate coaching superstars Mo Farah and Galen Rupp.
So, the three-time ING New York City Marathon champion enlisted the help of another Olympian, New Zealander John Henwood, who works as a coach and massage therapist in New York City, to work with Cain. Henwood acts as Cain's coach-in-residence, supervising her workouts and reporting back to Salazar. Cain said that the set-up has worked very well for her.
"You know, he's been great since Alberto's all the way across the country," Cain told reporters this weekend after smashing Debbie Heald's 41-year-old American high school indoor mile record with her 4:32.78 performance. "He's kind of here as kind of my coach at home. It's great, because you know, sometimes maybe I'm like having a really great workout and I'm going faster than we expected. He's able to kind of like pick it up or, you know, I'm having a bit more trouble and slow it down. Just the support and having somebody here who's making sure I'm doing everything beforehand and keeping me calm. It's really great."
Henwood, 40, represented New Zealand in the 2004 Olympics in Athens in the 10,000 meters, although he didn't finish the race. Henwood has run 13:30.41 for the 5,000 and 27:45.98 for the 10,000. His best marathon was 2:15:05 at the NYC Marathon in 2005, where he finished 13th. He meets up with Cain several times a week to implement Salazar's program, and sometimes paces her through her workouts.
"Mileage-wise, we're not trying to overwhelm me," Cain said. "I'm still young and, hopefully, I still have a while to go. A lot of it is going to be a gradual process."
Cain said that under Salazar she is doing more body strengthening, like core work, which she said is "a little bit more intense" than what she had been doing before. She said she's trying not to let the increased intensity faze her.
"You know, he really knows what he's doing and I trust him 100 percent," Cain said of Salazar.
Henwood was at the Armory to watch Cain's race and he liked what he saw.
"I saw, pretty much, a superstar in the making, to be honest," Henwood told Race Results Weekly. "She ran amazing. We would have liked, maybe, to be a little bit closer so that when they kicked she would have been up there (for the win). I definitely think she had the fastest kick in the field. Amazing. A record, what else could you ask for?"
From Henwood's perspective, Cain executed the race very well, and he liked the clean running form she showed in the final three laps, despite running about 31 seconds for each 200-meter lap.
"She was trying to relax," Henwood said. "I think she was a little nervous going into the race, and once she sat back and relaxed, then she knew it was time. Like, OK, three or four laps to go, her posture automatically changes, she gets up on her toes more, and she's ready to go."
Could she have done something better?
"It would have been slightly better if she had done that in fourth place or fifth place, instead of being sixth," Henwood said. "But we're looking at perfection here. She ran 4:31/4:32. Alberto, myself, we're extremely proud of her."
Cain continues her indoor season at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on Saturday in Boston, where she will run in the two-mile. The USA indoor high school record for that distance, according to Track & Field News, is 9:55.92 by Melody Fairchild, set in 1991. Because the Boston meet will be contested on a standard, 200-meter banked track, Cain can also collect the USA indoor 3,000 high school and junior records en route to her two-mile finish. Those marks are 9:17.4 by Fairchild (1991) and 9:15.56 by Aisling Cuffe (2012). Cain ran 9:02.10 earlier this season, but that mark was made on an over-sized 307-meter track and cannot count as an indoor record.