The ASU cross-country teams saw both perfections and faults from the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational on Friday.
Although the Sun Devils finished a disappointing 31st out of 48 teams, sophomore Shelby Houlihan was the star of the invitational.
Houlihan recorded the fastest 6,000-meter cross-country race in school history, breaking the record of ASU Olympian Amy Hastings.
Houlihan’s 19:58 finish on Friday was her first 6,000-meter of the year where placed 13th overall.
“That was an NCAA type of race,” women’s coach Ryan Cole said. “Big field, a lot of competitive girls, (and) she positioned herself right in the front pack, went strong out, (and) made a couple very good moves getting around some people.
“If she continues having strong efforts, she has an opportunity to be an All-American this fall.”
Houlihan has also won the Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year last season.
As for the rest of the Sun Devils, Friday wasn’t their best day. They ran as a pack — which was a pre-meet goal of theirs — but Cole said they weren’t far enough up the field.
But, by no means does this rule out ASU’s chances for the NCAA championships in November.
This does mean, however, that women’s team must make sure to take advantage of its upcoming opportunities.
“So we didn’t have the day we wanted, but we’re going to have more opportunities over the course of the next four weeks with the conference meet and region meet. But we’re going to have to beat some teams,” Cole said.
ASU ran better than expected, according to the NCAA rankings. They came into Madison, Wisconsin around 30th, but finished 21st of the 45 teams entered.
This was very encouraging, due to the fact the Sun Devils’ top two runners didn’t run their best.
In only his second race as a Sun Devil, Zach Zarda came in big, pacing the team with a 37th-place finish overall.
Following Zarda was senior Nick Happe coming in 108th overall, followed by redshirt senior Darius Terry at 127th overall.
“I’m not the most talented guy on the team,” Zarda said. “Darius and Nick are going be up there eventually, and we absolutely believe that and know that. And knowing that we still got 21st and them not having their best days, I think that really is encouraging.”
Happe’s shoe also became untied about a quarter mile into the 5-mile race, Zarda said.
Zarda’s performances so far this season have been huge for ASU.
The Sun Devils’ difficulties aren’t on the practice field, but rather with the mental aspect.
“I think sometimes you’re training at a really high level so physically you’re extremely confident,” men’s coach Louie Quintana said, “but it’s important to treat both sides the same, mentally and physically.
“I think in the middle of the race, not that they were really struggling, its just that they have to believe that the work they are doing is going to enable them to be among nation’s elite,” he said.
In addition, Quintana said the massive field size bothered many teams, as No. 1 Wisconsin finished 17th.
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