Shelby Houlihan Runs 14:34.45 to Break American 5,000m Record in Heusden

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By Jonathan Gault
July 21, 2018

Shelby Houlihan‘s incredible 2018 season continues. After Diamond League victories in Eugene and Lausanne and national titles in the 1500 and 5000 meters, the 25-year-old can add a new title to her résumé: American record holder. Houlihan, with a pacing assist from her Bowerman Track Club teammate (and former AR holder) Shalane Flanagan, ran 14:34.45 tonight in Heusden, Belgium, to shave over four seconds off Shannon Rowbury‘s old mark of 14:38.92, set in Brussels in 2016. According to Houlihan’s agent Stephen Haas, she hit 3k in 8:49 and closed out the race with a 60-second final 400.

Your new American record holder photo courtesy Stephen Haas

Your new American record holder (photo courtesy Stephen Haas)

Entering the race, Houlihan’s personal best was a modest 15:00.37, which came in the first round of last year’s World Championships in London. But tonight’s race was Houlihan’s first outdoor 5,000 as a pro that did not come in a championship race (she did run an indoor 5,000 at Millrose in 2016), and after her 3:57.34 in Lausanne, the question was not whether she would break 15:00 in Heusden, but how far under the barrier she would go. The answer wound up being 25.55 seconds, easily enough for the American record. It was the second American record in as many days for the Bowerman Track Club as Courtney Frerichs ran 9:00.85 to take down Emma Coburn‘s AR in the steeplechase yesterday in Monaco. BTC also got a big run from its newest member, six-time NCAA champ Karissa Schweizer, who was racing in the red BTC kit for the first time today, and ran a nearly 15 second pr for 3rd in 15:02.44.

Behind Houlihan, there were a slew of personal bests that saw Americans take seven of the top nine places. The full list of American pbs from Heusden:

1. Shelby Houlihan, 14:34.45 (previous pb: 15:00.37)
3. Karissa Schweizer, 15:02.44 (previous pb: 15:17.31)
7. Vanessa Fraser, 15:09.62 (previous pb: 15:20.10)
8. Sarah Pagano, 15:11.27 (previous pb: 15:18.57)

Molly Huddle (2nd in 15:01.44) and U.S.-based Dominique Scott of South Africa (4th in a pb of 15:04.14) also ran well as the top seven all broke 15:10. Full results and analysis below.

12081188HOULIHAN SHELBYUSASen14:34.45
22071189HUDDLE MOLLYUSASen15:01.44
42021199SCOTT DOMINIQUERSASen15:04.14
52091186HILLS MADELINEAUSSen15:06.19
62031185HALL MARIELLEUSASen15:08.20
72061184FRASER VANESSAUSASen15:09.62
81071197PAGANO SARAHUSASen15:11.27
91181201SISSON EMILYUSASen15:13.66
101041205VASTENBURG JIPNEDSen15:15.77
111171200SECCAFIEN ANDREAAUSSen15:20.31
132041181DUNCAN MELISSACANSen15:24.64
141161196O’CONNELL JESSICACANSen15:25.29
152011178BERHE MESELUETHSen15:32.40
161151179BUSCOMB CAMILLENZLSen15:32.58
171081180CARTON LOUISEBELSen15:33.25
181141194MATSUZAKI RIKOJPNSen15:37.77
191111190ICHIYAMA MAOJPNSen15:45.56
201061203TSUTSUI SAKIHOJPNSen15:49.19
231131195MORITA KAORIJPNSen16:06.96

Quick Take: Shelby Houlihan is putting together one of the best seasons in the history of American distance running

It’s a real shame that there’s no global outdoor championships in 2018, because Houlihan is having a season for the ages (though to play devil’s advocate: would Jerry Schumacher be letting Houlihan race this much if there was a global championship to peak for?). Here’s what she’s accomplished:

  • Four national titles (indoor 1500, indoor 3000, outdoor 1500, outdoor 5000)
  • 4th (1500) and 5th (3000) at World Indoors
  • PRs of 3:57.34 for 1500 (#4 all-time U.S.), 8:36.01 for 3000 indoors (#2 all-time U.S.), and 14:34.45 for 5000 (American record)
  • Diamond League wins in Eugene and Lausanne

Houlihan won’t be able to add a world or Olympic medal to that résumé, but even so, few Americans distance runners have ever enjoyed a better season. Houlihan has a strong case as the #1 1500 runner in the world and just ran the fastest time ever by an American over 5000 meters. And she’s not done as she’ll have a shot at Shannon Rowbury’s 3:56.29 AR in the 1500 at the Diamond League final in Brussels on August 31.

Quick Take: Could Houlihan have gone even faster with competition?

This isn’t meant as a knock on Houlihan at all, as 14:34 is a phenomenal time. But considering she won the race by 27 seconds — and let’s pause a second to appreciate how crazy it is that another American just beat Molly Huddle by 27 seconds in a 5k — we couldn’t help but think of last week’s Diamond League 5k in Rabat, which was won by Hellen Obiri in 14:21 and saw a record five women break 14:25. Could Houlihan have been dragged to an even faster time, or would that have been a case of biting off more than you can chew?

Quick Take: Bowerman Track Club just got even stronger

As if Houlihan and Frerichs breaking American records on consecutive days wasn’t enough, Bowerman TC debuted its latest addition in today’s race: Missouri alum Karissa Schweizer. Schweizer, a four-time NCAA 5k champ for Missouri (two indoor, two outdoor), took 15 seconds off her 5k PR to run 15:02, followed not too far behind by another BTC rookie, Vanessa Fraser, who lopped 11 seconds off her PR to run 15:09.

The Bowerman Track Club has the deepest stable of female distance talent in the country and arguably the world. With the addition of Schweizer and Fraser, BTC now has seven women who have broken 15:10. Check out the 5k PRs of the Bowerman stable (with the caveat that Flanagan and Cragg have since moved up to the marathon):

14:34.45 Shelby Houlihan
14:44.80 Shalane Flanagan
14:56.33 Emily Infeld
15:02.44 Karissa Schweizer
15:06.05i Marielle Hall
15:09.59 Amy Cragg
15:09.62 Vanessa Fraser

Considering Houlihan’s 14:34 is the only time truly competitive internationally there might be a training group in Kenya or Ethiopia with more top end talent, but the depth of the BTC is great and Houlihan is raising the bar up top.

Discuss this run in the forums: HOULIHAN SHELBY with the AR in heusden 
*Houlihan racing 5k Saturday in Heusden, Shalane Flanagan Pacing
*Is Jerry Schumacher the best American distance coach right now?