Nike’s Shelby Houlihan to join us at GAXC Saturday, Oct. 6!!

by Steve Underwood

Shelby Houlihan caught fire in 2018 in becoming one of America’s best distance runners – not just on a current basis, but joining the all-time greats. Now – this Saturday at the Great American Cross-Country Festival – athletes, coaches and fans will have a chance to meet and get autographs from this Nike Bowerman Track Club superstar.

Nike has added an extra dimension of excitement to the GAXC Festival each of the past three years, bringing in Mary Cain, Courtney Frerichs, Craig Engels and now Houlihan. She will be available to meet, greet and sign most of the day at a special tent between the start and finish areas at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.

A few of the first indications 2018 was going to be special for Houlihan came indoors, as she blasted an 8:36.01 3,000m in Boston in early February (#2 all-time American), then swept the 1,500m and 3000m at the USATF Championships in Albuquerque two weeks later. Then at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, England, she was in the medal hunt in both events before finishing 4th (1,500) and 5th (3,000), respectively.

That was just a hint of what was to come. Outdoors, Houlihan ran her first sub-4:00 1,500m at the Prefontaine Classic, kicking to a dramatic victory in 3:59.06. Then at USATFs in Des Moines, she captured an historic sweep of the 1,500 and 5,000 to double her championship gold medal haul for the year (seven for her career).

Houlihan's magic season continued in Europe in July as she lowered her 1,500 PR to 3:57.34 (#4 American all-time) with a spectacular victory at the IAAF Diamond League meet in Lausanne, France, then at the Heusden-Zolder meet in Belgium rolled to an American record 14:34.45 back at 5,000m. She finished the season with close runner-up finishes in both the Van Damme (Diamond League Final) and IAAF Continental Cup 1,500s.

Having turned 25 in February, Houlihan is, of course, in a great position now to make Team USA and battle for gold medals at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, as well as the next two IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Doha (2019) and Eugene (2021). She was a 2016 Olympian, finishing 11th in the 5,000m final in Rio, and placed 13th in the same event at the 2017 IAAF World Champs in London. Her improvement this year suggests that bigger things are ahead!

Houlihan, of course, had a tremendous running resume long before her recent international success. As a prep at Sioux City East HS in Iowa (Class of 2011), she ran 4:43.64 for the mile and 2:07.35 for 800m and won eight Drake Relays crowns -- in addition to four Iowa state titles and a 3rd-place finish in the 2009 Nike Outdoor Nationals 800. She also had great range even then, as her cross country creds included two top-3 finishes in the Nike Cross Nationals Heartland Regional events, twice qualifying her for the NXN Finals in Portland.

Then at Arizona State University, Houlihan was a 12-time NCAA D1 All-American, including winning the 2014 NCAA Outdoor 1,500m (junior year). She set Sun Devil school records in four events during her career. She became a member of the Nike Bowerman TC in 2015, training under acclaimed coach Jerry Schumacher. The NSAF is thrilled to have Shelby joining us at GAXC this year!

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