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Mary Cain turns pro at 17

Nov 15, 2013, 9:08 AM EDT

Mary Cain Getty Images

U.S. middle distance phenom Mary Cain will not run collegiately.

Cain, 17, turned professional, she announced Friday.

“For the past couple of months, my family and I have been debating whether I should compete at a collegiate or professional level going forward,” Cain said, according to a press release. “I have decided, and am truly excited to announce, that I will be turning pro. I believe that, in the long run, this is the best way for me continue to develop as an athlete.”

It’s not a surprising move for the youngest American to make a World Championships team. Cain took 10th in the 1,500m in Moscow in August as the youngest woman ever to start a worlds final.

Cain turned pro earlier than previous U.S. running prodigies. Allyson Felix, who won an Olympic silver medal at 18, competed as a senior in high school. Alan Webb, who broke Jim Ryun‘s age-group records in high school from 1999-2001, turned pro at 19.

A younger U.S. runner has Cain beat in that department, though.

High school junior Alana Hadley qualified for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials earlier this month by running 2 hours, 41 minutes, 56 seconds at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on Nov. 2.

Cain, a senior at Bronxville (N.Y.) High, is in Monaco for the IAAF World Athletics Gala. She will still go to college, her father said, but will not be eligible to compete in NCAA competitions.

“How to proceed was always going to be a difficult choice,” said Cain’s father, Charles, according to a press release. “Mary is a straight-A student and will be pursuing a college education while competing. This remains a priority and we think this approach is the best way to balance her educational and athletic goals.”

Cain is coached by Alberto Salazar, who also coaches Olympic champion Mo Farah and Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp in Oregon.

Cain’s agent will be Ricky Simms, who also represents Farah and Usain Bolt.

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