Three Years After Making 800m Final at USATFs in Sacramento, Shelby Houlihan Returns to Win the 5000m

June 23, 2017

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —The women’s 5000 final at the 2017 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships was billed as the battle between the American record holders at 5000 and 10,000 in Shannon Rowbury (14:38.92) and Molly Huddle (30:13.17), but the winner ended up being a woman who ran the 800 final at USAs as recently as three years ago and has a Twitter handle of @shelbo800: Shelby Houlihan.

Houlihan blew by Molly Huddle with 100 meters to go and Shannon Rowbury couldn’t catch her as Houlihan won in 15:13.87 thanks to a 61.63 last lap. Rowbury ended up second in 15:14.09 and Huddle third in 14:15.29.

The NCAA’s indoor and outdoor champ at 5000 this year, Karissa Schweizer, passed 2016 Olympian at 10,000 Marielle Hall, to finish fourth in a PR of 15:18.69 to Hall’s 15:19.56.

The Race

Huddle leads with 200 to go Huddle leads with 200 to go

Natosha Rogers, who was doubling back from a fifth-place finish last night in the 10,000, did most of the leading early on as the first 1600 was hit in 5:01 and 3200 was hit in 10:00. When there were four laps to go (10:37:44 for Rogers), 14 of the 21 starters were still in the lead pack and Huddle decided it was time to start racing as she took the lead and started to squeeze things down. Her next three laps were 72.65, 71.56 and 70.15. While those laps separated the contenders from the pretenders, there were still six women within one second of the lead at the bell in this one which was going to come down to the last lap.

On the final lap, it soon became a four-person race as Schweizer and Lauren Paquette (sixth in 15:25:06) were dropped. With 200 to go, Hall was dropped but Huddle, Houlihan and Rowbury were very tightly bunched. As the came off the final turn, Huddle still led with Houlihan just behind her on the outside of lane one with Rowbury directly behind Huddle, still tucked in in lane 1. Once on the homestretch, Houlihan hit the jets and quickly accelerated into the lead. Rowbury was slightly gapped as she had to swing wide around Huddle to give chase. Over the final 50, Rowbury gained ever so slightly on Houlihan but Houlihan got the win thanks to a 29.7 final 200.

Results and analysis below.

Houlihan wins it Houlihan wins it

1 Shelby Houlihan Nike / Bowerman TC 15:13.87
2 Shannon Rowbury Nike Oregon Project 15:14.08
3 Molly Huddle Saucony 15:15.29
4 Karissa Schweizer Missouri 15:18.69
5 Marielle Hall Nike 15:19.56
6 Lauren Paquette Brooks 15:25.06
7 Vanessa Fraser Stanford 15:25.48
8 Sarah Pagano BAA 15:26.04
9 Nicole Tully HOKA NJNYTC 15:27.14
10 Sara Sutherland Saucony 15:29.98
11 Natosha Rogers New Balance 15:31.46
12 Jessica Tonn Brooks 15:32.34
13 Kim Conley New Balance 15:36.82
14 Samantha Nadel Oregon 15:37.69
15 Alycia Cridebring rabbit / SRA Elite 15:47.40
16 Katherine Receveur Indiana 15:51.14
17 Samantha Silva Nike / Bowerman TC 15:55.07
18 Allie Buchalski Furman 16:09.92
19 Cally Macumber Hansons-Brooks Dist. Proj. 16:11.52
20 Rochelle Kanuho HOKA ONE ONE NAZ Elite 16:16.26
21 Erika Kemp North Carolina St. 16:19.45
DNS Emily Sisson New Balance
DNS Emily Infeld Nike / Bowerman TC
DNS Elaina Balouris BAA

QT: Houlihan gets her first USA Outdoor title

Today’s win was the first USA Outdoor title for Houlihan, who won the mile and 2-mile indoors this year. In the span of less than four months, she’s won titles at 1, 2, and now 3.1 miles. While Houlihan did make the Olympics at 5000 last year, today’s win has to be viewed as a bit of a surprise. Houlihan had only raced twice outdoors this year – both 1500s – but at the Pre Classic she was well behind Rowbury (4:06.41 to 4:04.61). Perhaps if Rowbury, who is doing the 1500/5000 double at USAs, didn’t have the 1500 heat in her legs from yesterday it would have been a different story, but Houlihan, just 24, is going to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. Houlihan now has accomplished something Rowbury never has in her illustrious career – win a national title at 5000.

Houlihan is establishing herself as one of America’s best distance runners. Crazy to think the last time she raced in Sacramento, three years ago, she ran the 800 at USATFs making the final while a junior in college at Arizona State running 2:01.12 for 7th. Not that a good 5000m runner can’t run a good 800 — after all, Rowbury who ran 1:59.97 last year, has a better 800m PR than Houlihan. But Houlihan’s Twitter handle is @shelbo800. It’s rare for someone who thinks of themselves as an 800 runner to become a 5000m runner.

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QT: Molly Huddle Will Double at Worlds

Huddle said today she didn’t have the zip she’d like to have in her legs and that she started feeling worse in terms of recovery from last night’s 10,000m as the day went on due to delayed onset muscle soreness. Nonetheless, she knew her best shot to win and make the team was to push the pace.  However, when she didn’t get any separation on the final lap, she shifted her goal to making the 5,000m team.

This is Huddle’s last year on the track before she shifts her focus to the marathon and she’s trying to enjoy it. She’ll do the 10,000m/5000m double at Worlds for the first time. Her primary event, the 10,000m is first.

QT: Shannon Rowbury admitted that she felt the 1500 in her legs a bit, but said that was no excuse and was still happy to make the team

Rowbury admitted that she felt the effects of yesterday’s 1500 prelims in her legs tonight, and that it will be tough to come back on short rest for tomorrow’s 1500 final (the events are separated by less than 18 hours). But at the very least, Rowbury will be running the 5,000 in London as she continued her streak of making every U.S. team since her first professional season in 2008 — eight in total.

QT: Karissa Schweizer was incredible this year but has no plans to go pro

Schweizer showed tonight that she’s ready to compete with the very best in the USA, but the reigning NCAA XC champ said she has no plans to leave Missouri as she loves it there. Schweizer, a junior, definitely figures to make a U.S. team in the future, perhaps as soon as 2019 once Huddle is out of the event. Making it tonight would have been incredible, but Schweizer ran about as well as anyone could have expected, clocking a PR in less-than-ideal conditions, and has earned a nice break after a specatuclar junior year that brought NCAA titles in XC, indoor and outdoor track.

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