Houlihan, Chelimo, & Jager (7 Straight) Grow Their Legends With Convincing Wins at USAs

By LetsRun.com
June 24, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa — The final day of competition at the 2018 USATF Outdoor Championships here at Drake Stadium today featured three long distance finals – both steeplechases and the men’s 5000 – and in all three races, the heavy favorites delivered a victory as expected. First, Shelby Houlihan blasted the final 100 to blow away the field and complete the first 1500/5000 women’s double in 18 years. Then Olympic medallist Evan Jager used a sub-60 final lap to win his 7th straight men’s steeple title before fellow Olympic medallist Paul Chelimo toyed with the field before winning his second straight 5000 title.

We recap the three races for you below in the order that the took place. The 800 finals were also today and got their own recap:

LRC Ajee Wilson and Clayton Murphy the Class of US 800m Running Win 2018 USATF Titles

Women’s 5000: Houlihan Runs a 13.1 Final 100 To Complete The Double

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After using a devastating 57.67 final lap in yesterday’s 1500 final to blow by four-time global medalist Jenny Simpson, Shelby Houlihan entered this afternoon’s 5,000 final at the 2018 USATF Outdoor Championships as the heavy, heavy favorite and delivered upon that status, using another dominant kick to repeat as champion. In the process, Houlihan became the first woman since drug cheat Regina Jacobs in 2000 to win both the 1500 and 5,000 at the same US champs.

Between indoor and outdoor track, she has now won an incredible seven national titles in the last 17 months. Rachel Schneider, who, like Houlihan, was doubling back from the 1500 (where she finished 4th) was 2nd in 15:32.71 to Houlihan’s 15:31.03, with NCAA champ Karissa Schweizer, running her final race in a Missouri singlet, third in 15:34.31.

Predictably, Houlihan’s instructions from coach Jerry Schumacher were to play sit-and-kick, and though the winning time of 15:31 was not super slow, it was not fast enough to drop Houlihan, if she had any fatigue in her legs. The lead pack, led by Schweizer, still contained eight women with three laps to go, and at the bell, Schweizer, Houlihan, Schneider, and Stanford grad Vanessa Fraser (now representing Bowerman Track Club) were still all there.

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On the final lap, Houlihan moved to the lead midway down the backstretch, with Schneider moving up into second. Schneider was still on her shoulder coming off the final turn, but that’s when Houlihan attacked. And when Houlihan went, she was gone. Though she had the race won with 50 meters to go, she picked it up even more from there; her final 50 would not have looked out of place in the 100-meter final, such was the ferocity with which she pumped her arms and legs. Her final 200 was 28-mid, but most of that came in the final 100 — one messageboard poster says they timed it frame by frame and came up with 13.02 seconds for the final 100 (we had 13.2 on our watch and 28.6 for the final 200).

See it for yourself.

Section  1  
  1 Shelby Houlihan              NIKE/Bowerma          15:31.03  
  2 Rachel Schneider             Under Armour          15:32.71  
  3 Karissa Schweizer            Missouri              15:34.31  
  4 Lauren Paquette              Brooks                15:36.83  
  5 Vanessa Fraser               Stanford              15:36.89  
  6 Katie Mackey                 Brooks/BROOK          15:39.25  
  7 Allie Buchalski              BROOKS Beast          15:40.62  
  8 Sara Sutherland              Saucony               15:45.91  
  9 Erin Clark                   Colorado              15:54.17  
 10 Anna Rohrer                  Notre Dame            15:59.58  
 11 Maggie Montoya               Roots Runnin          16:02.26  
 12 Bridget Lyons                Atlanta TC            16:06.33  
 13 Maya Weigel                  Strava TC             16:08.58  
 14 Danielle Shanahan            HOKA ONE ONE          16:09.96  
 15 Sarah Brown                  New Balance           16:10.93  
 16 Cally Macumber               Unattached            16:17.08  
 17 Ashley Maton                 Unattached            16:21.61  
 18 Anna Shields                 Point Park            16:32.44  
 19 Katrina Coogan               New Balance           16:38.98  
 -- Eleanor Fulton               High Perform               DNF  
 -- Erika Kemp                   NC State                   DNS  
 -- Marielle Hall                NIKE/Bowerma               DNS

Quick Take: Shelby Houlihan has become a better 1500 runner by training like a 5k runner

Houlihan has always had great acceleration, but she believes that she’s reached a new level as a pro because she now has the strength to use that top gear at the end of her races. She said that most of her training so far in 2018 has been geared around the 5k, but her plan is to focus on the 1500 in races when she goes to Europe. That’s a scary thought as she already moved to #5 on the all-time U.S. list at Pre (3:59.06) but it seems that she’s capable of going even faster.

Long-term, Houlihan said she’ll focus on whatever event Schumacher thinks is best for her. If Houlihan wants to win global medals, that event is quite obviously the 1500. She has the speed to close with the best in the world in that event, but to medal at Worlds in the 5k you need to have around 14:30 5k ability, and no American has ever run that fast (Houlihan’s pb is 15:00, but she should be able to lower that this summer).

Quick take: Karissa Schweizer will make her pro decision in next “couple of days”

photo by @talbotcox photo by @talbotcox

Schweizer, who is from Iowa, got to run before the Iowa crowd while wearing her University of Missouri uniform for the last time. She said she hopes to make her pro decision in the next couple of days. She added, “I wanted to represent a brand in this race but it’s just a big decision and I really have to think it over before I decide and I really have to make the best decision for myself and there is no point to rush it.”

As for today’s race, she improved on her fourth place last year at USAs which pleased her. When she took the lead she knew “I had all these kickers behind me. I knew I had to take it then as that made it an honest race.”

Rachel Schneider had herself quite a weekend

Schneider, a Georgetown alum who trains under her old college coach Mike Smith in Flagstaff, didn’t view herself as a 5k runner after her big 15:15 pb at Stanford in May. But she admitted that after her result today, she may have to reevaluate as she heads into a World Championship year in 2019.

Meet Anna Shields, the 27-year-old NAIA runner who was running 20+ minute 5ks two years ago and ran the 800 AND the 5k at USAs this weekend

Shields ran one year at Central Connecticut in 2009-10 and was not running as well as she wanted as her best mark was 2:21 in the 800 (she ran 2:18 and 4:55 in HS). Shields thought that she “just didn’t have it” anymore, and her coach did nothing to disabuse her of that notion.

“My coach suggested, ‘Maybe this isn’t for you,’ and I thought, Maybe it’s not,” Shields said.

So Shields quit the sport, worked jobs at a bank, Starbucks, and Dick’s Sporting Goods (shoutout to steepler Isaac Updike), and as a coach. But she began training again on her own a few years later and found herself steadily improving. Even though she was too old to compete in the NCAA, her high school coach told her competing in the NAIA was still an option, so Shields returned to school at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, where she won the 1000 and mile indoors and 800 and 1500 outdoors this year.

Shields wasn’t even sure she’d make it to USAs, so she submitted her times in multiple events and wound up running the 5k today after she was eliminated in the first round of the 800 on Thursday. Ironically, Shields says the 1500 is her best distance — the one event she didn’t qualify for). But her range extends even beyond 5k — on June 3, she ran the Fairfield Half Marathon in Connecticut, and won it in 1:24:17.

Men’s steeple: Lucky Number Seven for Jager

Photo by @talbotcox Photo by @talbotcox

An act of God couldn’t even stop Evan Jager.

After a two-hour, 54-minute thunderstorm delay, Jager, the Olympic silver medallist and American record holder, controlled the men’s steeplechase and powered away from Olympic finalist Hillary Bor the final 100m to win his seventh straight USATF title in a Drake Stadium facility record time of 8:20.10 as Bor was second in 8:22.58 and Andy Bayer was 3rd in 8:24.66.

Jager now turns his sights on the steeplechase in Monaco and trying to become the first non-African-born man to go sub-8:00 in the steeple in what is being billed as a world record attempt.

After a 66 first full lap from the finish line, the pace slowed over the next three laps, which were all 68s for the leader. The 5th full lap was a 66 but this race really came down to the final two laps. Jager, who had grabbed the lead for good just before the third-to-last water jump, really started to string out the six-man lead group on the penultimate lap. At the bell (7:20.52), it was a three-person battle as only Bor and Bayer were able to stick close to Jager’s 62.15 penultimate lap as everyone else in the race ran over 64.

On the last lap, Bor, who was 7th in the Rio Olympics, kept within about 5 meters of Jager until the homestretch but heading into the final water jump it seemed that Jager was definitely in control and going to be the winner barring a fall on one of the final two jumps.

Jager had no problem whatsoever with the final two jumps and after 59.68 final lap, he had his 7th straight championship.

Section  1 Finals
  1 Evan Jager                   NIKE/Bowerma           8:20.10  
  2 Hillary Bor                  U.S. Army              8:22.58  
  3 Andy Bayer                   NIKE                   8:24.66  
  4 Stanley Kebenei              NIKE                   8:28.39  
  5 Jordan Mann                  Ocean State            8:28.55  
  6 Haron Lagat                  U.S. Army              8:28.88  
  7 MJ Erb                       Saucony/Free           8:29.09  
  8 Dylan Blankenbaker           adidas                 8:31.67  
  9 Travis Mahoney               Hoka One One           8:32.24  
 10 Tripp Hurt                   Unattached             8:34.45  
 11 Aidan Tooker                 Syracuse               8:37.17  
 12 Donn Cabral                  Hoka One One           8:39.68  
 13 Brandon Doughty              ZAP Fitness            8:40.12  
 14 Isaac Updike                 Team Run Eug           8:40.22

Quick take: Jager says he’d have won title #7 at 1 a.m. or 2 a.m., talks about running fast in Monaco, the Bowerman Track Club not blowing off USAs, and being away from his family 5 months a year

First a stat on how good you all think Evan Jager is. 99.7% of people picked Jagert to win his 7th title in the LetsRun.com Running Warehouse prediction contest. He delivered on your faith.

We’ve got two different clips with Jager below. In the first he talks about his win and how he feels pressure to keep winning. Jager said with the delay at first it was hard to get the nerves back, but he had no trouble delivering when needed in the race.

In the second clip, Jager starts talking about how he heard rumors the meet would be cancelled if the delay went too long. His thought on that was “you can’t cancel the meet. I was ready to go at 1 [a.m], 2 [a.m.], whenever, it didn’t matter. If they wanted to bring us back tomorrow that was fine with me. I would have run whenever” — whatever it took to get title #7.

photo by @talbotcox photo by @talbotcox

Then he talked about how the Bowerman team always shows up at USAs even in the off years. He said, “[Coach] Jerry [Schumacher] never lets us take the easy road.”

Speaking of the road, Jager said this is the first summer he will actually get to spend time in Portland as he’ll have a month in Portland after Monaco before the end of the European season. He said most years, between altitude stints and travel in Europe, he’s not at home five months a year. “It’s brutal,” he said of being on the road so much away from his wife and home.

He said head Bowerman coach Jerry Schumacher has four kids and the pros don’t want to pull Jerry away from his family so he generally only flies in to see them for really big workouts. Jager said the team is professional and “established enough we don’t need him on the day to day.”

Up next for Jager is a sub-8 attempt in Monaco. Right now Jager said his focus in training is on the times he needs to run and hit, but once the Monaco race is here he will focus on competing as he said there hasn’t been a race where he hasn’t been able to hang onto until the final lap for a few years. “If it’s super fast I’m excited to test myself and see how fast I can run, see how long I can hold on. If it’s 7:55, it’s 7:55. If it’s 8 flat, it’s 8 flat. I might as well push it,” he said.

Quick take: Andy Bayer finally gets top 3 at USAs

Andy Bayer has been 4th at USAs 4 times (3 straight years in the steeple until this year, and in the 1500 in 2012), but he finally broke through to the top 3 today.

He was obviously pleased with the higher finish and is now focused on trying to run faster and get points to get in the Diamond League final.

QT: You must watch our interview with 5th-placer Jordan Mann — the funniest, most genuine interview we’ve done in years

Most athletes who finish outside the top three are happy to walk through the mixed zone unnoticed. Not Jordan Mann. After finishing 5th in 8:28.55 — his second pb in three days — Mann was openingly lobbying for the press to approach him. We’re glad we did.

Mann, 25, is a 2015 grad of Brown University (he did a grad year at Providence College) who still trains in Providence under Ray Treacy (go to 6:24 in the video for Mann’s funny impression of Treacy). A 9:34 2-miler in high school who finished dead-last at Heps XC in 2013 (trust us, that is hard to do) he could not believe that he finished fifth in his first U.S. final.

“I’m ecstatic,” said a beaming Mann after the race. “I guarantee you no one here’s as happy as me right now.”

Mann will take home $2,000 in prize money, which he said he may spend on a new computer and something to help him learn Japanese (he’s a big anime fan — “black people love anime”). He was also pumped by the potential of running for the US at the NACAC Championships August 10-12 in Toronto — which may happen if some of the guys in front of him decline their spots.

“All those big boys are like, ‘Aw, down year, no World Championships, no Olympics.’ I was like, NACAC year, let’s go! Time for me to get the US kit.”

Mann, who is Jewish, supports himself by working part time at Brown’s Center for Jewish Life, his other big passion in addition to running; he even helped start a group aimed at students of color called “Hillelin’ with Melanin.” Treacy coaches him but doesn’t ask him for payment, but Mann got him a giftcard last year and said that after today, he’ll have to get him an even better one once this season is over.

We urge you to watch the interview in full; you won’t regret it.

MB: Stop whatever you doing and watch this interview with Jordan Mann.

QT: Haron Lagat, a man who lovesAmerica, but can’t run for it, may have run his last steeple

Haron Lagat is one of the greatest steeplechase rabbits in the world, but this USA meet likely was his last steeple ever. Lagat, who ran a 1:01:00 half marathon at Houston this year, is shifting his focus to the roads, said he may do the Frankfurt Marathon this year or New York. The Monaco Diamond League meet asked him to help rabbit the world record attempt this year, but he said he’ll probably decline and focus on the road preparation.

Lagat, who grew up in Kenya but has lived in America for nearly half his life (16 years) and never represented another country, still can’t run for the country he calls the “greatest nation of all” because the IAAF has put a freeze on athletes switching allegiance. Lagat had harsh words for the IAAF committees that somehow still haven’t come up with rules to let legitimate citizens like Lagat compete for their new countries while stopping athletes who switch countries for athletic reasons.

“The people with the committees deciding this if they need two years that means they don’t know what they’re doing,” he said. “I changed for a better life, I changed for the greatest nation of all. I don’t feel we should be put in the same bus for the Bahrainian who goes there for a weekend and comes back with a passport,” he added.

Lagat’s long-term goal is making the US Olympic team in the marathon in 2020.

“That’s my big big chance. I hope I will [finally] wear that USA singlet,” he said. Lagat qualified for the US half marathon team this year, but the IAAF freeze didn’t let him run for the US.

Men’s 5000: Paul Chelimo Wins His Second Straight and Dreams of The American Record

Chelimo wins USAs Chelimo wins USAs

Last year at USAs, Paul Chelimo massacred the field from the front by going out just over 60 and running a solo 13:08 meet record for the win. This year, Chelimo went out fast again (31.16 first 200, then a 62.69 lap from 200 to 600) but then let off the gas. There would be no virtuoso solo front run win this year. No, Chelimo was content to win with almost a fartlek type effort.

He slowed to 66.66 on his third full lap from the finish line before picking things back up to 64.53 and 63.69 before slowing things down a lot over the next 2k as the 2k between 1800 and 3800 was covered in just 5:39.46 (66.30, 68.33, 67.52, 69.08, 68.26) – that’s 14:08 5k pace.
Eight men were still within a second of Chelimo with 3 laps remaining, and on the third-to-last lap, Sam Parsons of adidas/Tinman Elite decided it was time to race and he moved up from 7th to the lead thanks to a 63.57. But the lead was Parson’s in name only as Chelimo was on his inside just .03 behind.

The final two laps would show that Chelimo was in total control of this one, much like Mo Farah used to be in control of his races late. The penultimate lap was a 61.19 for Chelimo and at the bell there were still seven guys within one second of Chelimo. Even with 200 left, there was still four guys within a second of Chelimo but this one was never in doubt. Once Chelimo came off the final turn, he accelerated and quickly gapped Ryan Hill and the the rest of his pursuers. Chelimo closed in 55.78 but most of that came in the final 200 which we timed in an unofficial 26.2 but could have been faster as Chelimo slowed significantly in the final meters to give an army salute to celebrate (plus he once again used a decent amount of energy looking over his shoulder – we counted six times in the final 200).

Section  1  
  1 Paul Chelimo                 U.S. Army             13:29.47  
  2 Ryan Hill                    NIKE/Bowerma          13:29.67  
  3 Hassan Mead                  NIKE/NIKE OT          13:30.12  
  4 Riley Masters                NIKE                  13:30.23  
  5 Emmanuel Bor                 U.S. Army/Am          13:31.52  
  6 Grant Fisher                 Stanford              13:32.00  
  7 Reid Buchanan                Skechers Per          13:32.41  
  8 Sam Parsons                  adidas/Tinma          13:35.16  
  9 Joe Klecker                  Colorado              13:41.65  
 10 Jacob Thomson                Kentucky              13:45.03  
 11 Willy Fink                   Unattached            13:45.36  
 12 Trevor Dunbar                Boston Athle          13:46.20  
 13 Dillon Maggard               Utah St.              13:55.06  
 14 Joe Stilin                   ZAP Fitness           14:05.73  
 15 Phillip Reid                 HOKA Aggie R          14:13.86  
 6 Jack Keelan                  Stanford              14:16.47  
 17 Tim Rackers                  Boulder TC            14:20.12  
 18 Josef Tessema                American Dis          14:20.51  
 19 George Kelly                 Adams State           14:34.92  
 -- Zachary Zarda                Kansas City                DNF  
 -- Tommy Curtin                 Saucony/Free               DNF  
 -- Zachery Panning              Grand Valley               DNS  
 -- Eric Jenkins                 NIKE/Nike Or               DNS  
 -- Louis Serafini               Tracksmith H               DNS  

Paul Chelimo is hoping to set up a sub-13:00 attempt

Chelimo said that while he completely trusts his kick, he didn’t want to leave anything to chance and hoped that by throwing in some surges, he might convince others to follow and take something out of them before the end of the race.

“I wanted to take the sting out of those guys a bit and see what they could do and what they could do with the moves and everything and see who was strong enough to react to the moves,” Chelimo said.

It was an odd approach for sure, and a risky move if employed by a lesser athlete. But Chelimo has the raw ability to overcome tactical mistakes — he admitted that later in the race, he spent too much energy covering moves when he should have been trying to stay smooth and relaxed — but he did what he needed to do to keep the lead in the late stages and was ultimately able to kick to victory as expected.

Chelimo desperately wants to break Bernard Lagat’s 12:53.60 American record, but is losing faith that it will come in a Diamond League race as everyone wants to win those and there aren’t people willing to help out with pushing the pace. Indeed, no one has bettered Lagat’s time in a DL race since Edwin Soi’s 12:51 in Monaco five years ago.

“The next plan that I’m thinking is just get a race, get good pacers, me and a couple of guys, and just go for it, as much as I can and see what’s gonna happen,” Chelimo said.

He said that he would have to talk to the Army and see if they would be able to help him make it happen. He called on us to help him out too.

“Maybe LetsRun can do something about it,” Chelimo said.

Ryan Hill notches sixth top-five finish at USAs in seven years

Hill hasn’t raced a ton this year — his 8:22.36 2-mile for 6th at Pre was his only race longer than 1500 outdoors — but he always shows up at USAs. He made his first U.S. team on this track in 2013, and since then he has made two more and only finished outside the top four once at USAs (6th in 2016).

Hill was pleased with his positioning on the final lap as he was right where he needed to be with 200 to go; he just didn’t have the “burst” to outkick Chelimo. Hill’s only complaint? The weather delay meant that he was pretty hungry immediately after the race.

“I just had another bagel [before the race] and I’m feeling it right now,” Hill said.

Hassan Mead Gets 3rd after not making 1,500 final

Last year, Hassan Mead ended Galen Rupp’s streak of 8 straight 10,000m titles. This year he dipped down and ran the 1,500 prelims at USAs, and didn’t make the final. He wasn’t happy with that, but bounced back nicely to take 3rd in the 5,000 after dropping out of his last two 5,000s. Mead said in Stockholm, he felt good at 3,000 but it was very hot, and then in Portland he got a stitch with 600 to go so he dropped as a precaution. Today there were no problems. He also talked about how he can’t believe the the East Grandstands will really be gone when he returns to Eugene.


Masters in 4th Masters in 4th

Riley Masters thinks he’s shown he’s ready to make a team

Masters, who now trains under Mark Wetmore and Heather Burroughs in Boulder, said he thought he was fit enough to win today. That’s a big change to previous years as Masters had finished no better than 9th the last three years at USAs.

Winning will still be tough with Chelimo in the mix, but this was a solid field and Masters was only .11 out of third, which is the important spot next year. Masters said he felt his race today sent a message — to both his competitors and himself — that he will be a guy to watch moving forward.

“That’s just kind of what I wanted to establish this year, like, Okay, Riley’s a guy that we might think could make a team,” Masters said.

Masters is, to our knowledge, the only non-Colorado alum who trains under Wetmore. He said he was able to “marry in” as his fiancee Sarah Sutherland ran for Colorado. Masters also had the chance to pick Wetmore’s brain during the weather delay, and while he was hesitant to reveal much, he did say that Wetmore told him he once drove from Los Angeles to New Jersey in just 54 hours.

Grant Fisher was pleased to take 6th

Two years ago, Fisher ran at the Olympic Trials but was mostly just happy to be there and did not make the final. Today, capped his junior year at Stanford with a very respectable 6th place even though he was the youngest guy in the field at 21 years old.

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