2015 NCAA Women’s Mile Preview: 1500 Champ Shelby Houlihan Looks To Add Mile Crown To Her Résumé

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By LetsRun.com
March 10, 2015

The 2015 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships will be held on Friday and Saturday at the University of Arkansas’ Randal Tyson Track Center.

To get you ready for the action, this week we’re previewing the mid-d and distance events (800, mile, 3000, 5000 and distance medley relay) one-by-one. Below, you can find the preview of the women’s mile. Our men’s mile preview is here.

Team wise, it looks like a slugfest between a slew of SEC schools led by Arkansas on the women’s side and a battle between Florida and Oregon on the men’s.

*800 Previews *Men’s Mile Preview *Women’s Mile Preview *3000 Previews *5000 Previews *DMRs *Men’s Team Projections *Women’s Team Projections

*Schedule * Men’s entries * LRC analysis * Women’s entries * LRC analysis

TV/Streaming: The meet will be streamed live on ESPN3.com

Women’s Mile (prelims Friday 7:00 p.m. ET, final Saturday 7:00 p.m. ET)

           Name                        Year School                 Seed           
===============================================================================
  1    167 Colleen Quigley               SR Florida State       4:29.67 
  2     35 Shelby Houlihan               SR Arizona State       4:30.77 
  3    222 Rosie Clarke                  JR Iona                4:31.78 
  4    373 Erin Teschuk                  JR North Dakota St     4:32.09 
  5    310 Leah O'Connor                 SR Michigan State      4:32.29 
  6    320 Rhianwedd Price               SO Miss State          4:32.74 
  7    346 Sammy Silva                   SR New Mexico          4:33.48 
  8    581 Angel Piccirillo              JR Villanova           4:34.28 
  9    582 Stephanie Schappert           SR Villanova           4:36.31 
 10     79 Mariah Kelly                  SR Baylor              4:38.00 
 11    411 Katie Porada                  SR Oregon              4:38.08 
 12    343 Anne Twombly                  SR New Hampshire       4:38.50 
 13    409 Nikki Hiltz                   FR Oregon              4:39.38 
 14    608 Eleanor Fulton                JR Washington          4:39.95 
 15    491 Blanca Fernández              JR Temple              4:40.60 
 16    396 Jenny Celis                   FR Oklahoma State      4:40.69

Like the men, this also figures to be a terrific race as it features two NCAA champions as well as Colleen Quigley, whose 4:29.67 in Boston on February 13 puts her #5 on the all-time NCAA list (#6 counting oversize tracks). There are several women who could win this race, so let’s break them down one at a time.

Quigley and Mississippi State's Rhianwedd Price (left) at NCAAs last fall

Quigley and Mississippi State’s Rhianwedd Price (left) at NCAAs last fall

Colleen Quigley • Senior • Florida State • 4:29.67 sb
Best NCAA championship results: 6th, 2014 indoor mile; 6th, 2013 XC; 2nd, 2013 3000 steeplechase; 5th, 2012 3000 steeplechase

Quigley has lost just once this indoor season — back on January 24, to Arkansas’ Dominique Scott, who isn’t running the mile at NCAAs — but has otherwise been dominant, posting one of the fastest times in NCAA history at the Valentine Invitational and taking the ACC title over Notre Dame’s 4:37 miler Danielle Aragon on February 28.

There are reasons to be wary, however. First, Quigley is set to anchor the Florida State DMR on Friday night. FSU is seeded just 11th, so it’s possible they’ll be out of contention by the time she gets the baton, allowing her to save a bit more for the mile final on Saturday. The bigger consideration is that Quigley’s coach, Karen Harvey, resigned right after ACCs. In a Runner’s World story, FSU associate sports information director Bob Thomas was optimistic about how the Seminoles distance runners would be handled while the school works on finding a replacement for Harvey:

“Karen was meticulous in her preparation, so there’s workouts available. The kids are certainly not being left in the lurch in terms of what they need to do and someone to administer them…The immediate plan is kind of a group effort. Terry Long, the former head coach for 14 seasons who has been a volunteer assistant and worked specifically with the steeplers, will continue in that capacity and probably take on a little bit of an extra load. Josh Seitz, who was a volunteer assistant, will take on a larger coaching role. He’s familiar with the girls and has worked with them. And then we have another volunteer assistant, Ashley Botham, who will continue working with a larger group of female distance runners. So there’s not really any new characters being introduced into the equation. And it’s safe to say that Coach [Bob] Braman is also going to be actively involved working with the girls as well.”

Of course, it’s a sports information director’s job to be optimistic.

It’s impossible to tell exactly how Quigley will react to her coach’s departure, especially considering Harvey took Quigley from 4:37 down to 4:29 in 2015. That being said, coaching is about preparation. The role of a coach on the day of a competition is way overrated. David Rudisha‘s coach Colm O’Connell doesn’t even attend his races. Mason Ferlic of Michigan did just fine in the NCAA steeple final last spring when he found out his coach Alex Gibby wouldn’t be returning after the semis.

Our concern regarding Quigley isn’t coaching, it’s the fact she’s a steepler racing milers.

Houlihan missed the CR in New York but still ran 4:30.77

Houlihan missed the CR in New York but still ran 4:30.77

Shelby Houlihan • Senior • Arizona State • 4:30.77 sb
Best NCAA championship results: 9th, 2014 XC; 1st, 2014 outdoor 1500; 3rd, 2014 indoor mile; 8th, 2013 XC; 7th, 2013 outdoor 1500

As the top returner and outdoor 1500 champion, Houlihan entered the season as the favorite in the mile and has done little to change that thinking in 2015. Houlihan’s 4:30.77 sb is slower than Quigley’s, but the way she ran it (2:12 for the first 809, 2:18 for the final 800) suggests that she is capable of a few seconds faster. Houlihan’s goal in that race — the NYRR Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games — was to get the collegiate record of 4:25.91. When you’re trying to break a record set by Jenny Simpson, that means going out very aggressively early on, and though Houlihan couldn’t hold 4:25 pace, it’s still impressive that she was able to hang on for a 4:30. Houlihan won her two other races this season (3000 at a Texas A&M quad meet and 800 at the MPSF Championships) comfortably and really, there’s nothing not to like about her in this race. She has by far the best 800 speed in the field (2:01 compared to 2:08 for Quigley or 2:07 for Leah O’Connor), has the best championship experience and will be running fresh, as Arizona State does not have a DMR entered. In a stacked field, Houlihan is the favorite.

Rosie Clarke • Junior • Iona • 4:31.78 sb
Best NCAA championship results: 
60th, 2014 XC (only NCAA appearance)

Like Houlihan, Clarke went out hard at Millrose (2:13 for the first 809) and though she slowed down over the second half of the race, she still manged to run 4:31.78, the #3 time in the country this year. Though this is her first NCAA championship appearance on the track, between Millrose and last week’s European Indoor Championships (where she finished a very respectable sixth in the 1500) she has plenty of big-race experience. Clarke isn’t as well-known as the bigger names (Quigley, Houlihan, O’Connor), but she was only one second behind Houlihan at Millrose — a gap she could certainly have made up over the last month.

Leah O’Connor • Senior • Michigan State • 4:32.29 sb
Best NCAA championship results: 17th, 2014 XC; 1st, 2014 3000 steeplechase; 7th, 2014 indoor mile; 5th, 2013 3000 steeplechase

O’Connor has proven herself a master of all surfaces, as in 2014 she was seventh in the NCAA indoor mile, won the steeplechase at NCAAs outdoors and was the Big 10 champ in cross country. In fact, if O’Connor can win the mile here on Saturday, she’ll be the first runner since Villanova’s Sheila Reid to win an NCAA title (team or individual) in all three seasons — XC, indoor and outdoor.

O’Connor’s sb of 4:32.29 is only the fifth-best in the field, but her resume this season is impeccable: four individual races, four wins (that 4:32 came in a solo effort at Big 10s, a race she won by nine seconds). Even more impressive, she split a reported 4:26 in the DMR the night before (anchoring Michigan State to the victory), a time that, once you adjust for the fact that it was 1600 meters and a running start, puts her at least on par with (perhaps slightly ahead of) Quigley’s 4:29 full mile.

As good as O’Connor is, it’s still hard to pick her over Houlihan (who beat her in this race last year and has a much faster 800 pb) especially considering that O’Connor, like Quigley, will be doubling back from the DMR the night before. That might be a tougher ask for O’Connor than Quigley, considering MSU should be in contention when she gets the baton (MSU is seeded second, FSU 11th). Of course, she ran extremely well after a quick DMR leg at Big 10s, so it’s entirely possible she comes back strong in the mile at NCAAs.

Don’t count out…

  • North Dakota State’s Erin Teschuk. The Canadian is undefeated this year and her 4:34.78 on a flat track in Minneapolis on January 31 converts down to a 4:32.09, the fourth-fastest mark in the country this year
  • Mississippi State’s Rhianwedd Price gave Arkansas stud Dominque Scott all she could handle at SECs, running 4:32.74 in the mile there to place second by .25 of a second and knocking seven seconds off her PR in the process.

LRC prediction: Based on her outdoor title and 2:01 800 speed, we’d go with Houlihan even if Quigley and O’Connor were fresh. Considering they’re running the DMR, we’ll say very confidently Houlihan FTW, with O’Connor second.

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