ASU's Shelby Houlihan caps off Pac-12 career with women's cross country title
OAKLAND, Calif. – Friday’s steady downpour at the 2014 Pac-12 Cross Country Championships stood in stark contrast to the usual sunny skies of Tempe, Ariz. But that didn’t slow down Arizona State Sun Devil Shelby Houlihan, who claimed the women’s individual championship with a time of 19:59 at Oakland Metropolitan Golf Links.
Considering she’s been a distance runner since the age of five, it’s easy to see why the senior was soaking in the moment. As she stood in the rain behind the finish line, just minutes after finishing the biggest race of her life, Houlihan said she felt like a kid again.
“I loved it,” Houlihan said with a huge grin. “It just kind of gives you that feeling, you know? Running around in the rain feels awesome.”
Houlihan was in the Halloween spirit, too, sporting some spooky green socks embroidered with ghosts for the ocassion. Meanwhile, her large traveling cheering section could be easily spotted with their red devil horns.
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The ASU senior dashed out with the leaders of the pack at the onset, but it wasn’t until the third and final lap of the 6,000-meter circuit that Houlihan made her push.
“I felt strong the whole way,” Houlihan said. “I knew going into the third lap that I was going to start squeezing it down. I was getting a little nervous because they were getting close to me with a [kilometer] to go and I was kind of starting to feel it a little bit. But I feel strong, so I knew I would be able to hold it off.”
ASU (158 points) placed sixth as a team, while third-ranked Oregon took the team title by posting a score of 54 and placing seven women in the top 20.
Houlihan was able to separate herself from a couple of the conference’s rising stars on the final go-round. Stanford true freshman Elise Cranny finished with a time of 20:04 to place second, while Cal true freshman Bethan Knights was third with a time of 20:17. Knights made an impressive late push past Colorado’s Erin Clark (fourth, 20:19) and Washington’s Maddie Meyers (fifth, 20:21), but Houlihan was the only runner to finish with a sub-20-minute time.
“It means a lot to me,” Houlihan said. “I came last year for Pac-12 [Championships] and I got fourth. I was extremely disappointed because I really wanted to win, but it wasn’t in it for me. I’m excited that I was able to come here in my last year and win it.”
With the Pac-12 individual title, Houlihan joins Amy Hastings (2004) as ASU’s only women’s individual Pac-12 cross country champions in school history. Now Houlihan said it’s time for some rest before the Sun Devils start preparing for the NCAA west regional on Nov. 14 at Stanford.
“I’m so glad I’m able to represent my school as well as I have,” Houlihan said. “I definitely felt a lot of support from all my fans. It’s been really fun.”
To see Houlihan's title-winning performance and the rest of the 2014 Pac-12 Cross Country Championships, tune into Pac-12 Networks on Monday, Nov. 3 at 6 p.m. PT/7 p.m. MT.