February 23, 2019
NEW YORK — What a way to win your first national title.
Shelby Houlihan has spent the past two years destroying anyone who dared cross her path at a national championship, winning eight straight titles at distances that range from the 1500 meters all the way up to 10k cross country. With 3:57 1500 speed, an American record in the 5,000 meters, and the strength to hang with (and beat) long-distance stars like Molly Huddle in XC, there didn’t seem to be any way to beat the 26-year-old Houlihan in the mile final at the 2019 USATF Indoor Championships.
But Colleen Quigley found one, gritting her teeth through a brilliant 60.09 final 400 meters to take down her Bowerman Track Club teammate and win her first US title in style in 4:29.47. It was sweet release for Quigley, who emulated another BTC teammate in screaming “Fuck yes!” as she broke the tape, as well as a measure of revenge after finishing second to Houlihan at this meet in each of the past two years. In a training group in which seven other women have either a World/Olympic medal or a national title, Quigley has her own national title to add to the pile.
Quigley only made one move, taking the lead with 500 to go and beginning her long drive to the finish from there. She dropped the pace from 34s and 35s to 31.09 for the penultimate lap, but with 200 meters to go and Houlihan lying in wait a meter and a half behind her, you couldn’t help but think: we’ve seen this one before.
Quigley had other plans. She floored the accelerator and…was this?…yes! She was actually increasing the gap back to Houlihan on the backstretch, her BTC teammate powerless to respond. Houlihan was all-out by the final turn, but Quigley was too good for her on this day, running her last lap in 29.00 to earn the victory. Houlihan was resigned to second in 4:29.92, with Cory McGee third in 4:30.14.
Quick Take: Quigley got into position with two laps to go, and that was the difference
Quigley and Houlihan ran their final 400 meters in almost exactly the same time: 60.09 for Quigley, 60.16 for Houlihan. The difference was, Quigley had the lead and a gap on Houlihan with 400m to go. And in a middle-distance race, when two runners are otherwise equal, positioning is the difference.
We give Quigley a lot of credit. She showed no fear in attacking Houlihan. And while we would have favored Houlihan to win in any kind of race, we really would have favored her in a kick over the last 100 or 200 meters as Houlihan was almost unbeatable in that kind of race last year. Quigley couldn’t leave it that late, and she didn’t.
Quigley said of her strategy, “My tactic was not to wait until the last 100 as I didn’t stand a chance.”
In hindsight, it’s easy to say we should have given Quigley more credit coming in. She ran a mile pb of 4:22.86 at Millrose, and she was just .14 behind Houlihan in the 1500 at USAs last year. But Houlihan was one of the best 1500 runners in the world last year, and her PR of 3:57 is six seconds faster than Quigley’s. She crushed Jenny freakin’ Simpson at USA Outdoors last year. Who was betting against Houlihan in this one?
(More videos and results below but first a photo snapshot of Quigley Winning)
Colleen Quigley takes down Shelby Houlihan to win the 2019 USATF indoor mile title in 4:29.47 (60.09 final 400).
— LetsRun.com (@letsrundotcom) February 24, 2019
Quick Take: Houlihan didn’t look quite right today
There’s no reason to panic for Houlihan fans. Yes, she got beat, but it took a strong run from Quigley to do it. When Houlihan won the 1500 at Pre last year, she ran 28.9 for her last 200 and 59.86 for her last 400. Today, she ran 29.12 and 60.16 (granted, the 1500 at Pre was faster comparatively, with a 3:59 winning time).
That said, based on the way she ran last year, we would have expected Houlihan to win this race given where she was with 400 meters to go. Maybe chalk it up to rust? This was Houlihan’s first track race of the year (it was Quigley’s second, after Millrose), and she spent January preparing to run (and win) the 10k USA XC champs.
Houlihan said, “It stings a little bit… I knew Coleen was fast and I couldn’t let her get too far away from me.”
Houlihan said she knows its not easy to win national championships and hopes to start another national championship winning streak tomorrow when she runs in the 2 mile. [Quigley is also entered but is in the slow heat and said she would not run it if shes’ in the slow heat].
Kate Grace not surprised by Quigley’s win
Bowerman teammate Kate Grace finished one spot behind Quigley at the Wanamaker Miles this year and last year, but tonight she had an off race and was only 10th in the “A” final (and 14th overall). She trains with Houlihan and Quigley and despite Houlihan’s tremendous success at 1500, Grace was not surprised Quigley won because she has seen her speed in practice.