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(Reuters) - Teenage middle-distance prodigy Mary Cain announced on Friday she is to turn professional after enjoying a spectacular season, during which she became the youngest athlete to represent the United States at a world championships.
The 17-year-old, in her final year at high school in New York, finished 10th in the 1,500 meters final at the Moscow worlds in August.
"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 to continue to develop as an athlete," Cain, who is in Monaco for the IAAF World Athletics Gala, said in a statement.
The youngster, coached by Alberto Salazar - the man credited with turning British distance runner Mo Farah into a double Olympic and world champion - set three U.S. junior records and won the USATF indoor mile title this year.
"A talent like hers only comes around once in a generation," Salazar told Runner's World magazine (www.runnersworld.com) last year.
"If you get a kid like her running right at a young age, she can accomplish incredible things.
"Mary is a girl with a special gift, and she and her family see an opportunity to develop that gift."
Cain has teamed up with agent Ricky Simms, who also represents Farah and triple Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt.
Reporting by Michael Hann; Editing by Alison Wildey