ASU women’s cross-country faces test in Notre Dame

Sophomore Shelby Houlihan (center) walks with her Sun Devil teammates during a break in practice. (Photo by Kyle Newman)

The ASU women’s cross-country team competes in South Bend, Ind., for the Notre Dame Invitational on Thursday.

ASU is up against many of the top cross-country teams from across the country.

Being so young, but very talented, this meet is going to be a great measuring stick for ASU’s unique unit.

“We’ve been working, we’ve been training,” women’s coach Ryan Cole said. “I think we’re in a good spot but I think there are still some question marks early in the season.

“We have to get into those through competition to really get a good idea of where our team is at. And I think we’ll have a better idea on Saturday than we do right now. So, we just want to get in and see where our team is right in the beginning competitive portion of the season.”

Out of their lineup, the Sun Devils are planning on running three freshmen this meet: Tory Haberman, Adriana Olivas and Alexia Velarde.

Olivas, a Corona, Calif., native, was one second away from placing first in the Artichoke Invitational earlier this September. She believes the team’s youth is a benefit for the future.

“I think it’s positive because we’re already a great group being young. And I think as time goes, I feel like we’re going to be really strong.”

There is an implication of inexperience for all types of young athletes who may be competing at a high level so soon.

As the season progresses, the progression of these younger runners will be a huge factor in the amount of success the Sun Devils see.

Even though there may be many freshmen on this year’s squad, five of seven runners that competed in last year’s NCAA championships are still on the squad.

The most notable of those runners would be sophomore Shelby Houlihan.

Houlihan was the winner of the Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year award last year, and knows firsthand how to be successful as a freshman runner.

“We have a lot of sophomores and we now have a year of experience under our belts, and the freshmen are kind of just following our lead,” Houlihan said.

The rather simple confidence she carries toward her team brings even more optimism for this upcoming meet.

“I think our team is really ready to go, we’ve been training really hard and we made a lot of improvements, Houlihan said. “I think if we go out there and do our best I think we’ll do really well.”

 

Reach the reporter at gdemano@asu.edu