Mary Cain set to run, drive, walk, then fly away

Mary Cain

NEW YORK — Mary Cain is bringing Hemingway, an altitude tent and Puddles to the University of Portland.

There are just a few more tasks here in her home state before the self-professed science nerd hailed and cautioned last year as the next U.S. middle-distance prodigy begins her freshman year of college.

First, the Adidas Grand Prix on Saturday.

Cain, born three months before Michael Johnson‘s 200m-400m double at the Atlanta Olympics, will run for 2 minutes in front of loved ones at Randall’s Island, between East Harlem, the South Bronx and Queens. She’s a high school senior (for seven more days) a half-hour north of Icahn Stadium.

The distance, 800m, is the shortest of her gaggle of high school records (up to 5000m) plucked before she turned professional in November, hired Usain Bolt‘s agent and joined the Nike Oregon Project.

Cain, who eats pancakes before races and Starburst after, was the youngest American to make a World Championships team last summer and youngest athlete from any nation to make a 1500m final. She finished 10th.

“Next year will be more of a jump because all of a sudden I’ll be in college and in a new city and everything, but the literal idea and concept of actually going professional, it hasn’t changed anything for me,” the joke-cracking and swoosh-wearing Cain said sitting at a Grand Central Terminal hotel mezzanine floor table, to a dozen or so reporters Thursday. “I wanted it to be how it has been.

“I don’t really know what to expect these next few years. I kind of like that. I kind of like it being just a little bit of a mystery, for me and for everybody.”

Adidas Grand Prix schedule, broadcast information, key events

Cain is the youngest woman in Saturday’s 800m field, but only by 25 days. In May, she turned 18, took AP exams in literature, economics and Latin, enjoyed the Bronxville High School prom and somehow had enough energy to open her outdoor season 3,000 miles away at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., finishing eighth in an 800m.

“It was a struggle,” Cain said specifically of taking the AP Latin test in a room with the school crowd she runs with, other high honors students. “There were a lot of people I saw who were drawing very nice pictures.”

Does she feel Saturday’s meet is her last fling as a high school kid?

“Not really,” she said, pausing to build up a joke. “I still have the whole summer.”

More tests are coming. She’s interested in competing at the U.S. Junior Championships and World Junior Championships in July, both in Eugene. After that, more Diamond League races.

But the one that’s causing consternation, even two days before she runs at Adidas, is her driver’s exam. That’s next Friday.

“I can drive,” she said, reassuring reporters and herself. “I’ve driven on highways. I know what I’m doing, but it’s just a matter of passing the test. I can parallel park, but what if I don’t?”

The day after that she will walk at graduation at Bronxville High School, which Cain said does not do class rankings that typically determine which students give speeches.

“We’re a little too competitive for that,” she said.

Cain will leave Bronxville and miss the handwritten, advice-seeking letters teenage runners mail her. Also her family, especially her old white poodle, Albus Dumbledore (named after the silver-haired “Harry Potter” headmaster).

“I’ll be Snapchatting him,” she joked.

She will spend the summer keeping tabs on the World Cup (she has Brazil, Spain, Germany and Argentina in the top four places in her bracket) and gradually moving her life to Portland.

“I probably won’t have a roommate,” Cain said when asked about her dorm situation, “because I do sleep in an altitude tent.”

This is not an unusual setup for Olympic sports athletes. One of Cain’s early sports heroes when she was a young swimmer, Michael Phelps, has done the same to boost oxygen production. It was the idea of her famed coach, three-time New York City Marathon winner Alberto Salazar, who also guides Olympic medalists Mo Farah and Galen Rupp.

“My parents probably hate it, but hey,” Cain said. “My parents at first were just like, ‘You have to have a tent in your room?’ I was like, ‘It’s the new thing. Everybody’s doing it.’”

She will also bring less cumbersome but just as valuable essentials, such as Puddles, the fuzzy yellow duck she carried during interviews at last year’s U.S. Championships.

And the thoughts of Ernest Hemingway. Cain was recently discussing books with Salazar — “Some people in the Oregon Project are like, we don’t read books. I’m like, oh, OK, this is awkward,” Cain says — and her coach suggested “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” inspired by Hemingway’s experiences in the Spanish Civil War.

Hemingway opted to write for the Kansas City Star rather than attend college after graduating from Oak Park and River Forest High School in suburban Chicago.

Cain couldn’t tell you where and what distance she might be running next week, but she’s mapped out studying chemistry and taking 18 credits in the fall, the maximum number of class hours at some major universities.

On the track, there are times she feels her age.

“A lot of people are always like, ‘Oh, you’re only 18,'” said Cain, who gets recognized in airports now. “The thing is this, there are 17- and 18-year-olds who dominate swimming, gymnastics, tennis.”

Facts she was reminded of watching 17- and 19-year-olds win Olympic figure skating gold medals in Sochi on TV.

“Just because I’m 17 and, yeah, maybe I’m not at my peak for a runner, it still doesn’t mean I can’t compete internationally,” she said. “Whenever I’m having my poor Mary, I’m only a little kid moments, I kind of remember that. I remember Missy Franklin.”

London’s Olympic Park Orbit to turn gold if England wins World Cup

2023 French Open women’s singles draw, scores

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At the French Open, Iga Swiatek of Poland eyes a third title at Roland Garros and a fourth Grand Slam singles crown overall.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Swiatek, the No. 1 seed from Poland, can join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win three or more French Opens since 2000.

Having turned 22 on Wednesday, she can become the youngest woman to win three French Opens since Monica Seles in 1992 and the youngest woman to win four Slams overall since Williams in 2002.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Men’s Draw

But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.

She retired from her last pre-French Open match with a right thigh injury and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, the No. 4 seed and Wimbledon champion, are the top challengers in Paris.

No. 3 Jessica Pegula, the highest-seeded American man or woman, was eliminated in the third round.

No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, is the best hope to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Women’s Singles Draw

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2023 French Open men’s singles draw, scores

French Open Men's Draw
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The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They could meet in the semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).

No. 9 Taylor Fritz and No. 12 Frances Tiafoe are the highest-seeded Americans, looking to become the first U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003. Since then, five different American men combined to make the fourth round on eight occasions.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw