"Big Four" Highlights


 

Faith of a Father

Dad of world-class runner keeps fame and faith in perspective

By Brian Caulfield, FFG Editor

Most any father would say, with allowable bias, that his daughter is wonderful, exceptional, uniquely gifted and even the best ever. But what happens when people all over the globe start saying those very same things about her based on objective assessment and measurable performance? What does a father say when he’s asked where his girl got such an amazing running talent that has propelled her the world’s top ranks?


Charles Cain, M.D., and his daughter (top) share a rare quiet moment. Mary Cain places second in the USA Championships 1500 meters last June.

Charles Cain, M.D., and his daughter share a rare quiet moment.

Mary Cain, right, lost by a stride to Treniere  Moser in the women’s 1500-meter run at the USA Championships June 22, 2013, in  Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Mary Cain, right, lost by a stride to Treniere Moser in the women’s 1500-meter run at the USA Championships June 22, 2013, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

These are the heady questions Dr. Charles Cain has faced since his 17-year-old daughter Mary began eclipsing one high school track record after another. She broke all barriers this summer, placing second in the USA Outdoor Track national championships 1500 meters against college and professional runners and qualifying for the finals at the World Championships in Moscow. In the latter event, she paced with the leaders in the early going before placing a respectable 10th against seasoned Olympians. Her father and mother have been there every step of the way of her whirlwind path to stardom – which was documented in a recent feature story in Sports Illustrated – but they are careful to keep her sudden fame in perspective. To that common question – where does she get all that talent? – her dad is quick to say that just as each of his four daughters has been a gift from God, so their talents, including Mary’s incredible speed, also come from God.

“The Catholic faith is very important to who I am, very important to the way my wife and I bring up our children,” said Cain. The family lives in Bronxville, a town in Westchester, N.Y., and belongs to St. Joseph’s Church there. “We try to make sure they understand the faith in depth, and as they get older that means looking into the Bible or trying to give them mature answers to whatever questions they have.”

His daughters have attended the local public schools – the eldest, Aine, just started her first year at William and Mary College – and gone through the parish’s religious education program, where his wife, Mary, has taught. Cain admits to the difficulties in raising children in the faith without the benefit of Catholic school.

“It’s a challenge to raise them properly according to our faith, but it’s a worthwhile challenge,” he said.

The Sports Illustrated article mentioned an incident when Mary made the Sign of the Cross after seeing a dead deer lying on a roadside, describing her as “both a Catholic and an animal lover.” Her father commented, “That’s Mary. She’s a very religious kid who takes her faith very seriously.”

Cain, an anesthesiologist, is a product of New York Jesuit schools, graduating from Regis High School in Manhattan and Fordham University in the Bronx. He received his medical degree from Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons. He was not an athlete “focusing more on the studies,” but his wife ran track at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx. By coincidence, Cain works at Columbia University Medical Center of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, right across the street from the storied Armory, which has a synthetic 200-meter track that serves as a hub for the city’s sport.

Mary said of her father, “He’s definitely amazing. He helps me all the time with everything I need.” An A-student as she enters her senior year at Bronxville High, Mary says that her parents don’t push her to excel. “We all want this to be fun,” she said. Her father agreed, saying, “As long as Mary comes off the track with a smile on her face, we’re happy.”

Among Mary’s records are a time of 1 minute 59.51 seconds for 800 meters, the first high school female to break 2 minutes for that distance, and 4:04.62 for 1500 meters, which opens the possibility of her becoming the first female high schooler to break 4 minutes for the “metric mile” next year.

About her faith, Mary said that she “leans on it in harder times.”

“My parents have really brought us all up in the Catholic faith, and hopefully I will pass that on to my own children one day,” she said.

That’s enough to make her father proud.