Sophomore cross-county runner Shelby Houlihan is riding some great momentum heading into the NCAA Championships in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday.
Three weeks ago, the Sioux City, Iowa, native finished eighth at the Pac-12 Championships for the second year in a row.
Houlihan finished in fourth place last Friday at the NCAA West Regionals, which individually qualified her for nationals.
Houlihan’s performances keep improving, which is a promising sign for when she laces up in Louisville.
“Shelby’s had a great year,” women’s coach Ryan Cole said. “It’s not done yet, and we’re obviously excited to go to the national championships, and her momentum is very good right now. She’s continuing to come around and do a better and better job of putting strong races together. So we have one more, and we hope that’s her best one of the fall.”
The 2011 Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year has proven in 2012 that she can run near the nation’s elite now.
Cole said it was impressive to see her perform so well because of some of the other great runners she competed against.
One he praised was Oregon’s Jordan Hasay, who won her third straight NCAA West Regional. Cole regards Hasay as one of the all-time best high school runners in the cross-country history.
Another was Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo freshman Laura Hollander, who was undefeated going into the regional race and finished second. She is projected to win the NCAA Championships, Cole said.
Friday also showed Houlihan’s ability to come up clutch in the last strides of a race, Cole said.
Houlihan and the ninth place finisher were only separated by three seconds.
“She finished off the race very well,” Cole said.
If Houlihan can stay with the leaders of the race toward the end, there’s a strong chance she may seriously contend for the national championship.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org