You Go, Girls!


Last Sunday Alexa Efraimson, a 17-year-old high school junior year from Camas, Washington, ran 1500m in 4:07.05 at the Adidas Grand Prix meet, finishing 10th in a field of professional runners that included the last two world champions among other outstanding runners. Her time was the second-fastest ever for a U.S. high school girl, trailing only Mary Cain’s 4:04.62 from last year.

The only three U.S. girls ever to run under 4:11 for 1500 — Efraimson, Cain, and Elise Cranny — were all in high school in 2014 (Cain and Cranny graduated this spring). In addition to these three, other current or very recent high schoolers have been re-writing the U.S. all-time lists. They include Wesley Frazier and Tessa Barrett (#5 and #8 on the all-time 5000m list, behind Cain’s #1) and Bethan Knights (#7 on the all-time 2-mile list, behind Cain’s #1). If we go back to 2012, there’s Ajee Wilson, #3 all-time in the 800 (behind Cain’s #1), and Cayla Hatton, #3 all-time in the 5000 and #2 all-time in the 10,000. Then there’s Sarah Baxter (two-time winner of NXN nationals in cross country) and Alana Hadley (2:41 marathoner, the youngest qualifier for the 2016 Olympic Trials).

Author Marc Bloom has written a long article for Runner’s World surveying the current generation of high school girls running middle and long distances.

Why Are These Teens So Fast?

One table from the article underlines the far-reaching improvement over the last two decades:

Year     Sub-4:50 1600M     Sub-10:30 3200M
1993          1                  3
2003         12                 12
2013         35                 57

Bloom offers several explanations for the depth of female distance talent including better high school coaching, a different kind of parental support, better understanding of the role of strength and nutrition in long-term success, a multi-sport approach, and harder workouts.

He also notes that many of these athletes are choosing to by-pass the traditional high school and college systems, choosing to work with outside coaches, and/or forego collegiate eligibility to go pro (Cain, Wilson, and possibly Efraimson). Bloom sees these trends as positive developments, ushering in a more competitive but also healthier era for female distance runners.

I’m inclined to agree with his assessment, and I also think that a less-remarked-upon development is the fact that it’s no longer a matter of “Mary Cain and everyone else.” She has company in Wilson, Efraimson, and others, and that’s a good thing.

About Jon Waldron

Running and Racing have been important parts of my life for as long as I can remember. I ran Track and Cross Country at Amherst HS, back in the day, and am proud to have been training and competing with the Cambridge Sports Union (CSU) for more than thirty years. If my bones hold out, I hope to continue for another thirty. Sixteen years ago, I began coaching, first as an Asst. Coach at Newton North HS in Newton, MA, and for the past ten years, as Head Track and Cross Country Coach at Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts. I've been writing about running for almost as long as I've been running, dating back to high school, when I would write meet summaries for the Amherst Record for about $0.33 per column inch. I've been blogging about running since 2005, and began blogging at "the runner eclectic" in 2014. Until recently I also had a day job, working full-time as a Technical Product Manager for Nuance Communications, based in Burlington, MA. But I am now on what might turn out to be a permanent sabbatical. Thank you for reading my blog, and please consider leaving a comment.
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