Houlinan Doubles and Sowinski Dominates at USATF Nats

Shelby Houlihan -SC East-ASU © Michael Scott 2016, www.miscottrunningphoto.shutterfly.com

Shelby Houlihan -SC East-ASU
© Michael Scott 2016, www.miscottrunningphoto.shutterfly.com

When someone is way better than you, there’s not much you can do, a lesson the women in the two-mile were taught by Shelby Houlihan tonight. Last night’s mile — which Houlihan won thanks to a 2:06.98 final 800 and 28.78 final lap — proved that Houlihan had the best kick in this field and set her up as the favorite. And unfortunately for her two-mile competitors, Houlihan is also a 2016 Olympian at 5,000 meters with a 15:06 PR, so dropping her early in this race — at altitude, no less — was not going to be an option. As a result, Houlihan was able to dictate the race, chilling out until 600 meters to go, at which point she gradually increased the pace before ripping the field apart with a 29.91-second final lap. It was a truly dominant performance, and one that gave Houlihan her second national title in a 24-hour span.

Courtesy www.letsrun.com, click here! Feature photo: Shelby Houlihan -SC East-ASU © Michael Scott 2016, www.miscottrunningphoto.shutterfly.com 

The race started extremely slow (over 6-minute mile pace the first 800) and remained slow through the mile (5:39 for 1618m) when Katie McMenamin of the Roots Running Project decided to make it an honest race. McMenamin upped the tempo to sub-35-second laps and would lead until 600 to go. That is when Houlihan decided she had had enough and made her move to complete the double. McMenamin, Heather Kampf, Sara Sutherland, and Katie Mackey tried to respond to Houlihan but it was futile. Sutherland was still with Houlihan at the bell but Houlihan was clearly best the final lap and powered away to her second title in two days as Kampf passed Sutherland for second and Mackey got 4th ahead of McMenamin.

Results *Lap By Lap Splits
1 Shelby Houlihan 10:19.14 Nike / Bowerman TC
2 Heather Kampf 10:21.80 ASICS / Team USA Minn.
3 Sara Sutherland 10:22.49 Saucony
4 Katie Mackey 10:22.78 Brooks
5 Katie McMenamin 10:24.80 Roots Running Project
6 Emily Lipari 10:44.62 Boston Athletic Association
7 Rachel Schilkowsky 10:46.20 rabbit
8 Emily Oren 10:46.35 Oiselle
9 Katrina Coogan 10:48.51 New Balance
10 Ayla Granados 10:52.38 rabbit / Strava TC
11 Patricia Terry 11:19.75 Texas Elite TC

Houlihan was clearly the best female distance runner in Albuquerque this weekend
Houlihan came into the meet in terrific shape after a training block in Flagstaff this winter, and with her biggest threats — Jenny Simpson, Shannon Rowbury, Kate Grace, Brenda Martinez — skipping the meet, there was no one to stop her from dominating the competition this weekend. Though her winning times were not impressive (4:45 and 10:19 for the mile and two-mile), Houlihan’s closing speed was, not only for how fast it was but how strong and powerful she looked on the last lap of each race.
Rowbury, Grace and Simpson are better in the 1500 than anyone the U.S. is going to trot out at 5,000 meters this summer (comparatively), so if Houlihan wants to make it to Worlds, her best bet is the 5,000. But after her success in the mile this year indoors, it may make sense for her to test the 1500 a few times outdoors before deciding on an

There was a nice mix of new and veteran faces claiming titles on the final day of the 2017 USATF Indoor Championships in Albuquerque. In the mid-distance events, Erik Sowinski (1:15.07) and Ajee Wilson (1:23.84) claimed their third and fourth indoor titles, respectively, while Olympic bronze medallist Clayton Murphy won the 1000 (2:18.60) to go with the outdoor 800 crown he earned last summer. Charlene Lipsey (2:37.97 1000) and Ben Blankenship (3:59.22) became first-time champions, while Shelby Houlihan capped off a dominant weekend by adding the two-mile title (10:19.14) to the mile title she won on Saturday night.
The 60 hurdles were headlined by a pair of outdoor world record holders, with Keni Harrison and Aries Merritt living up to the billing. Harrison overcame a so-so start to win her first U.S. title in 7.81(how crazy is that – her first US title and she is a WR holder) while Merritt won his third — but first since undergoing a kidney transplant in 2015.
Other winners on the day included Ronnie Baker in the 60 (6.45) and Olympic medallists Sandi Morris in the pole vault (4.70m/15-5) and Michelle Carter in the shot put (19.03m/63-5.25). World Indoor champion Vashti Cunningham also claimed her second straight U.S. high jump title (1.96m/6-5) at the tender age of 19.

Erik Sowinski-Iowa ©Jim Kirby

Erik Sowinski-Iowa
©Jim Kirby

Erik Sowinski

Cas Loxsom is the world record holder* at this event, but he isn’t the 2017 USATF Indoor champion as Erik Sowinski got the win in a personal best of 1:15.07. That’s national title #3 for Sowinski, who wishes that USATF holds nationals in Albuquerque every year — all three of his national titles have come on this track.
Unlike the women’s 600, which featured two women head and shoulders above the rest, there were several guys in this field who figured to have a shot at winning, which made the positioning key at 200 meters. It was converted 400 runner Chris Giesting who broke best, hitting 200 in 23.56, with Shaquille Walker, 19-year-old phenom Donavan Brazier and Sowinski behind him. Loxsom was in fifth place on the inside, and if he was to win another national title, he would have to pass four men over the next 400 meters. Giesting continued to lead through 400 in 48.19 as places 2-3-4 shuffled up; at the bell, it was Brazier, Sowinski and Walker behind Giesting in that order with Loxsom remaining in fifth.
The backstretch of the final lap was where the race was decided. Sowinski entered it in third, but he had room to step out and move past Walker and Giesting into the lead before the final turn. Loxsom, on the other hand, found himself blocked by the men in front of him and unable to pass.
Loxsom finally freed himself on the turn and swung wide on the homestretch, but at that point Sowinski had put too much ground on him and despite a heroic final 50, Loxsom had to settle for second. Sowinski crossed the line in 1:15.07, shaving .44 off the PR he set yesterday to move up to #4 on the all-time list, with Loxsom finishing just behind in 1:15.18.

Results *Lap by Lap Splits
1 Erik Sowinski 01:15.07 Nike
2 Casimir Loxsom 01:15.18 Brooks
3 Shaquille Walker 01:15.39 Brooks
4 Russell Dinkins 01:15.86 NYAC
5 Chris Giesting 01:15.96 HOKA NJNYTC
6 Donavan Brazier 01:16.10 Nike
Not running this race in lanes makes it way more interesting
Loxsom got the unfortunate draw of lane #1 and that made it hard for him to get in position after the first 200m. He could never recover. Sowinski has the most experience racing professionally indoors and he put that knowledge to use.

 The world best could have gone down if this was a two-man race
Sowinski said afterwards he felt that he was capable of running faster as he was cut off with 300 to go, and Loxsom definitely could have run faster if he hadn’t been boxed in. If you had put them together in a two-man race today, we’d have been surprised if the world best (1:14.91) didn’t go down.
*Officially, the IAAF does not recognize a world record for the indoor 600, so Loxsom’s mark is a “world indoor best”