Photo by Don Rich
Plenty of discussion has been generated through various media outlets for track & field including articles by Flotrack and Runner's World over the past few days on whether or not Alexa Efraimson will turn pro for her senior year of high school and take a similar path as another high school female distance running phenom Mary Cain did this past year in becoming a paid and supported professional runner during her senior year of high school after essentially running a pro circuit schedule of races while training under Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar as a high school junior but keeping her amateur status. The only major difference for Cain this year from last year's setup is that she gets paid to run and is officially sponsored by Nike, but still living the normal everyday life of a high school senior with school, friends, social life, proms, SAT's, and graduation ceremonies. A juggling act and mastery of time management is certainly required by Cain while also being among the world's top young middle distance runners, so is Efraimson ready to attempt to do the same next year?
Efraimson is certainly in the same boat as Cain was last year...not enough competition for her in high school only races, so she has to continually search and find it running unattached up against professional level of competition in pro and college meets. Efraimson made the switch from running in the adidas Dream Mile against some of the top prep milers in the country this past Saturday in New York City to running against some of the top tier professional women in the pro 1500 meter race, which resulted in Efraimson running arguably her best race yet at the 1500/1600/mile distance with a US #2 all-time performance of 4:07.05 for 10th place. Initially, the Dream Mile was being billed as a Efraimson versus Elise Cranny match-up, but when Cranny (a 4:10 1500 PR Colorado high school senior) declined her invite to the Dream Mile in the final weeks which likely forced Efraimson to move up to the pro race.
Last summer, Efraimson really made a name for herself with a bronze medal finish of 4:16 in the 1500 meter finals at the 2013 World Youth Championships, yet now finds herself running nearly 10 seconds faster in less than a year's time in the metric mile. She showed she can run incredible times without a field of pro and college runners around her as well when she set the National Federation High School record in the 1600 meter run at the Washington State Meet in late May with a 4:33.29 performance. Her mile PR time is actually faster at 4:32.15 from indoors at the Millrose Games in the elite women's mile alongside Mary Cain.
Efraimson and Cain (who ran a 2:01 800 in the same adidas Grand Prix meet over the weekend), look to race for the first time this outdoor season head to head in two weeks at the US Outdoor Championships. The US Outdoor Championships meet (the senior's meet and not to be confused with US Juniors) is relatively new or known to be part of Efraimson's post-season schedule who all along was planning on running locally in the Brooks PR Invitational on June 21st in Washington then looking to wear the Team USA singlet by earning a spot on the World Youth team at the US Junior Nationals trials on July 5th and 6th at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
Mary Cain last summer made it all the way to the World Championships in the women's 1500 meter run. While there is no competition for spots on a World Championships or Olympics team this summer, if Efraimson were even able to make it through the rounds and onto the finals of the US Outdoor Championships in the 1500, it would be a remarkable stepping stone for her to be following in the footsteps of ground breakers before her in the likes of contemporary pros Cain and Jordan Hasay, who made it that far in high school as prep prodigies.
Living in the Northwest, there is a plethora of professional training groups and coaches that Efraimson could join and work with if she decided to turn pro early with the likes of Nike and Brooks having formed several teams of elite pros training in Oregon or Washington. It is too early to speculate on who and where might be the best fit for the Camas High School junior as she might still be strongly considering going the collegiate system route that virtually all of our country's top distance runners thrived and developed in before moving onto the professional ranks. If she were to turn pro and become a sponsored athlete though, she would become ineligible by the NCAA rules to compete collegiately.
Nonetheless, a great opportunity to watch Alexa Efraimson in possibly her last high school athletes-only race field will be on Saturday at the Brooks PR Invitational when she races the 800 meter run against a stellar field of US prep elites. She is actually not considered the favorite in the race as that title is deservedly given to 2013 World Youth bronze medalist Raevyn Rogers from Houston, Texas. Rogers just successfully repeated as the New Balance Nationals 800 meter champion against the likes of Olivia Baker, so Efraimson will have her work cut out for her to come out with the win on Saturday.
Efraimson has not said whether she is leaning towards turning pro, but made it clear this past weekend at the adidas Grand Prix that she is keeping all her options open for next year as she looks to continue to develop as one of our country's top promising young distance runners. That comment there opened the window to speculation of possibly her going the "Mary Cain route". She hopes to at least spring board into whatever path she choses for next year by closing her 2014 outdoor track season during the last week of July at Hayward Field competing for a top 3 medal in the World Junior Championships 1500 meter finals.
Post-Race Video Interview following US #2 all-time 4:07 1500 at adidas Grand Prix (Flotrack)