DES MOINES, Iowa – Shelby Houlihan grew up in Sioux City admiring fellow Iowan and middle-distance star Jenny Simpson.
Houlihan just might be poised to pass Simpson as America’s next great hope among women’s 1,500-meter runners.
The 25-year-old Houlihan stormed past Simpson, 31, to win the 1,500 on Saturday at the USATF national outdoor championships at Drake Stadium– Simpson’s hometown track.
Houlihan took the lead from Simpson with 50 meters left to knock off the seven-time national champion in the event.
Instead of going hard for the entire race, Simpson’s strategy was to find a more realistic pace in hopes of having enough energy left to make the final kick count.
She didn’t, but the younger Houlihan sure did.
Houlihan won in 4 minutes, 5.48 seconds, almost a second better than Simpson, to notch her second victory over Simpson in a month. Houlihan beat her Hawkeye State rival for the first time in the Prefontaine Classic on May 26.
“She’s always been someone I looked up to. I think I’ve been very careful not to put people on pedestals,” Houlihan said. “I still wanted to be able to beat her.”
In men’s javelin, former Whitworth star Andrew Bloom placed 15th.
Bloom, who won a NCAA Division III title in 2016, recorded a throw of 213 feet, 5 inches, well short of his mark of 229-5 at the Northwest Conference Championships in April.
The Stanwood, Washington, native missed the finals. The winner of the event, Mississippi State grad Curtis Thompson (249-3), also won the NCAA Division I national title in 2016.
A slight headwind helped keep the times down in the sprints, but world record-holder Keni Harrison still took the women’s 100 hurdles in an impressive 12.46.
Kahmari Montgomery won the men’s 400 in 44.58. Kenny Selmon took the men’s 400 hurdles in 48.21, and Shakima Wimbley cruised to the women’s 400 title in 49.52.
Women’s hammer throw
This discipline has been arguably the most exciting among U.S. field events of late. DeAnna Price kept that trend going by setting an American record, winning with a world-leading throw of 256-3. Price had set the mark on June 2, only to have Gwendolyn Berry break it six days later at 255-2. Berry finished second.
Price credits her improvement in 2017 in part to the 45 pounds she lost in the offseason.
“To me, I was like if I want to get better I have to get same strength (but) smaller form…and things have been connecting better,” Price said.
Matthew Centrowitz, who was upset by Robby Andrews in this meet a year ago, won in 3:43.37 to claim his fifth title. Centrowitz, the Olympic champion from 2016, is one victory shy of matching the legendary Steve Scott, who won the event six times from 1978-86. “At this point in my career I want to keep checking off boxes and leave my mark in the 1,500 and the U.S,” Centrowitz said.
Men’s pole vault
Sam Kendricks became the first American pole vaulter to win five consecutive national titles in 74 years, clearing 19-2 1/4 to best a field of up-and-comers. “This is a huge responsibility to compete well. Don’t give them an inch, they’ll take it,” Kendricks said.
Defending world champion Emma Coburn claimed her seventh national title in a thriller over Courtney Frerichs. Coburn won in 9:17.70, just a second faster than Frerichs. The two also finished 1-2 at worlds in 2017. “It’s great having a really strong competitor that challenges you. It really makes you keep it honest and grind,” Coburn said.
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