Women’s 1,500: Arizona State’s Shelby Houlihan Powers Away From The Field To Win As Cory McGee Is Runner-Up Twice In A Row

by LetsRun.com
June 14, 2014

Eugene, OR – The women’s 1500 at the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Hayward Field was an exciting race that had most of the field still in contention with 250 to go, but in the end there was no question which runner was best. Arizona State’s Shelby Houlihan blew the everyone away the last 200m with a strong kick that no one was able to respond to, winning in 4:18.10. Florida’s Cory McGee was the first to kick, but couldn’t react when Houlihan went by her and was relegated to a runner-up finish in this event for the second year in a row as she held off Florida State’s Linden Hall. Villanova’s indoor mile champion and LRC’s pre-race favorite Emily Lipari wasn’t in contention with 200 to go, but had a big kick to get 4th and the collegiate leader, Arkansas Stephanie Brown, was never a factor and only finished 8th (4:20.85).

Domination the Last 200 Domination the Last 200 (click for photo gallery)

The Race

No one was in a hurry for this one when the gun went off and the first 100m seemed to be a battle of running slow enough not to lead, while still getting a good position. Going into the first turn it was Lipari at the front with the entire pack bunched up and running wide in the outside lanes. Lipari took the field through a 54.77 first 300m (73-second 400 pace) and was passed by Georgetown’s Rachel Schneider who led for a short stretch before Villanova’s Angel Piccirillo paced them through another extremely slow lap around 73-seconds.

With 800m to go they were only on pace for a 4:34 1500 and still extremely bunched up and crowded. McGee was running in 3rd, and Lipari was 4th, running on the outside, but everyone was right there. Stephanie Brown was running at the back of the pack and there was some contact between her and Oregon’s Sarah Penny that sent Penny almost stepping onto the infield. Watching live it wasn’t clear who was at fault, whether it was Penny, Brown, or someone else who clipped them both. Either way there were no falls or DQs and everyone resumed racing as they went through 800m in 2:25.

Coming into the penultimate homestretch the pace was increasing and many of the runners went extremely wide to try and get position before the bell. Houlihan was starting to move and led slightly over Hall and McGee as they hit the bell with a 68 second lap. Meanwhile, Lipari had run the second slowest lap of anyone in the field and went through the line in second-to-last place, but only .57 back. Brown made a move way out into nearly lane 4 to try and get to the front, but couldn’t get around anyone and tucked back into 4th to last place. It was still anyone’s race.

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With 250 to go McGee was the first to kick making a big move to the front. She quickly put some distance on the main pack, but was followed by Houlihan who went around McGee at about the 200 mark and started gaping her immediately. Houlihan powered away to win in 4:18.10 closing with a 30.13 200 (61.75 last 400). McGee couldn’t respond when Houlihan went by and started tying up over the last 100m, but was able to hold on to second with 4:19.19 to beat out Linden Hall (4:19.33).

It was a wide open race at the bell. It was a wide open race at the bell.

Behind the top three, Lipari looked like she was completely out of it with 300 to go, but had her typical big kick over the last 150 to just grab 4th in 4:19.60 beating Kentucky’s Allison Peare by .08-seconds. Lipari’s last lap was actually the fastest in the field besides Houlihan at 62.68.

Quick Take #1: Houlihan Your Dominant Champ The win capped off a great year for Houlihan, and put her on the national radar. She’s had a great year finishing 3rd in the mile indoors and doubling back about an hour later to run the 3K. She had the #4 time in the NCAA this year (4:13.56) and had another impressive double at PAC-12 Champs where won the 1,500 by over 2.5 seconds and came back 2.5 hours later to win the 5k, beating Stanford’s Aisling Cuffe (#3 NCAA all-time) in the process.

A solid year for Houlihan who afterwards said said that she was confident she could win off a fast pace or slow pace and stayed relaxed throughout the race. Talking about how most people weren’t mentioning her as the favorite to win she said that was just fuel to the fire. On the last lap she said she started hammering with 400 to go and felt strong the whole way. When McGee made her move at 250, Houlihan still felt really strong so went at 200 saying, “I just gave it everything I had and tried to hold on as long as I could. I was definitely scared that they were going to catch me.”

She’ll run the 800 at USAs in a couple of weeks where she wants to try and get her 2:02.63 PR down to 2-flat or 2:01.


QT#2: Cory McGee at Peace with 2nd: You might think McGee would be frustrated to finish runner-up for the second year in a row in this race, but she was very at peace with it. She said she didn’t have anything negative to say about the race and was happy to finish 2nd and thought it was a fun, great race.

She wasn’t surprised that Houlihan was that strong at the end because she’s always been a contender. McGee thought that if she lost to someone who’s inconsistent and just came out of nowhere she’d be more disappointed, but she didn’t have a problem with losing to someone who’s always in it and is such a tough competitor.

Moving forward McGee, who ran at Worlds last year for team USA, doesn’t really have a plan yet for post-collegiate running, but will definitely be at USAs.

QT#3: Tactics Cost Lipari: Emily Lipari wasn’t very content with her 4th place finish. She said that it would be one thing if she just had an off day and didn’t have it in her legs today, but she felt good and had a good kick, but felt that her poor tactics cost her getting pushed back and boxed in on the penultimate lap.

QT#4: Stephanie Brown an Off Day

Brown came in with the top time this year (4:11.80) and was 2nd indoors, so 8th place was definitely a disappointment for her today. Her 4:11.80 was from April, so maybe and she didn’t run well at her conference meet, so maybe she could be a bit burned out, but then again she looked great winning her prelim two days ago.

Brown said she felt like her tactics were poor today as she was all over the place and even out in lane 4 with 400 to go. She’s not sure what happened with the contact with Oregon’s Penny, but didn’t feel it really affect her or the overall race.

Looking forward she wants to continue running, but doesn’t have any sponsorship plans yet. She’d like to continue to train in Arkansas as she feels “you don’t fix what’s not broken”.

QT #5: Houlihan is Back Next Year Of the top ten in this race, seven were seniors. Houlihan comes back next year to defend her title, but overall there’s a lot of room for new faces to emerge in this event.

QT#6: We also caught up with Florida State’s Linden Hall who was very happy with her 3rd place finish:


Place Name Affiliation Time Heat (Pl)
1 Shelby Houlihan JR Arizona State 4:18.10 1 (1)
2 Cory McGee SR Florida 4:19.19 1 (2)
3 Linden Hall JR Florida State 4:19.33 1 (3)
4 Emily Lipari SR Villanova 4:19.60 1 (4)
5 Allison Peare SR Kentucky 4:19.68 1 (5)
6 Brook Handler JR Michigan 4:20.45 1 (6)
7 Agata Strausa SR Florida 4:20.60 1 (7)
8 Stephanie Brown SR Arkansas 4:20.85 1 (8)
9 Rachel Schneider SR Georgetown 4:21.15 1 (9)
10 Sarah Penney SR Oregon 4:22.60 1 (10)
11 Molly Hanson SO Wisconsin 4:23.85 1 (11)
12 Angel Piccirillo SO Villanova 4:27.66 1 (12)


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