Pre Classic Women — Houlihan Breaks Through, Beats Simpson & 4:00

Houlihan chopped more than 4 seconds off her PR in joining the 1500’s sub-4:00 club. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

Eugene, Oregon, May 25-26—Two Iowans: 25-year-old Shelby Houlihan, 31-year-old Jenny Simpson. For milers, 6 years can be a generation.

When the little-known Houlihan passed the world-renowned Simpson 20y from the finish of the Prefontaine Classic 1500, was it a generational moment? Only time will tell.

For Houlihan, it was her first time under 4:00—3:59.06, one of four runners sub-4 in a tight, tense race. She powered around the final turn with a long, steady homestretch sprint, inexorably gaining on Simpson and Morocco’s Rababe Arafi with every stride. Simpson, in front at the gun as the final rabbit stepped away, led most of the final 400.

“Going into the last 300, I try to ‘switch gears’ every 100m, and I felt really good at that point,” Houlihan said. “I was just hoping it would be enough to catch them.” She ran her last 400 in 59.86, a second and a half up on Simpson (61.32).

“It was a little windy coming around the curve on the backstretch,” Simpson said. “I just did the best I could. You open up, you run as hard as you can…”

For Simpson, was it déjà vu all over again? Nine years earlier, then a senior steeplechaser at Colorado, she ran the Pre 1500 and stunned the track world with a brilliant 2nd-place 3:59.90—as with Houlihan this year on the same track, her first sub-4:00. She was 22.

(Simpson, who went to high school in Florida and now lives in Boulder, was born in Webster City, Iowa. Houlihan, who attended Arizona State and now lives in Portland, grew up in Sioux City, Iowa.)

Houlihan’s previous best had been 4:03.39, in 2016. Her first sub-4:10 also came at Hayward Field, in narrowly losing the 2015 NCAA in 4:09.67. She won the ’14 NCAA 1500 title at Hayward as a junior in ’14.

British veteran Laura Muir (3:59.30) chased Houlihan to the wire and got 2nd, a quarter second back. Arafi slipped to 4th—behind Simpson’s 3:59.37—in a PR 3:59.51, missing the Moroccan Record by just 0.16. In 6th, Linden Hall, the former FSU Seminole, ran 4:00.86 for an Australian Record, 0.07 better than Sarah Jamieson a dozen years ago.



In the women’s 800, while an all-time U.S. soil best was established—Caster Semenya ran 1:55.92 to turn back Ajee’ Wilson by less than a second—the looming question is whether Semenya will be allowed in women’s-only races much longer given the recent IAAF ruling on testosterone.

“I was really happy to get 2nd,” the dignified Wilson said after producing the No. 6 performance in U.S. history, 1:56.86. “It’s awesome just being competitive this early in the season.”

African women also won the 5000 and 100. After early talk of a record attempt in the 5K, once the pacesetters departed it was left to the Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba to pull away to an impressive win in 14:26.89, 15 seconds from the WR, 6 seconds from her own imposing MR.

Ivoirians Ta Lou & Ahouré turned back the big-name pair of Bowie & Thompson in the 100. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

The century was a 1-2 punch by the stunning Côte d’Ivoirian duo of Marie Josée Ta Lou and Murielle Ahouré. Ahouré had a spectacular first 40 and gave way only in the closing moments to Ta Lou, 10.88–10.90, 0.03 off Ta Lou’s PR and a 10th from Ahouré’s NR. They turned back an imposing field that included international medalists Elaine Thompson, Dafne Schippers, Tori Bowie and Blessing Okagbare. In 8th, Javianne Oliver PRed at 11.10.

“I train hard,” the tenacious Ta Lou said, “so if I win then I know that my training is good and it’s working. I just want to continue to better myself and keep running hard.”

The 400 was supposed to have featured a high-end rematch between Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Allyson Felix, but the American inexplicably withdrew shortly before the meet. In her absence the tall Bahamian strode to an imposing world leader of 49.52.

On the field, the grand dame of the pole vault prevailed again as 36-year-old Jenn Suhr defeated the reigning world (Sandi Morris) and Olympic (Katerína Stefanídi) champions. Suhr won on misses from 21-year-old Eliza McCartney, whose first-try clearance of 15‑11 (4.85) broke the New Zealand Record and gave her the lead long enough for a cup of coffee, when Suhr matched it. McCartney was high above the bar on one of her failures at 16-¾ (4.90).

“It was a good day,” Suhr said. “I’ve always liked coming to Eugene. They’re renovating the stadium, so it was the last time it was going to look like this, and I just wanted good memories.”


EUGENE DL WOMEN’S RESULTS

Prefontaine Classic; Eugene, Oregon, May 25-26—

(5/25—non-DL 800, non-DL 1500)

100(1.9): 1. Marie Josée Ta Lou (CI) 10.88; 2. Murielle Ahouré (CI) 10.90; 3. Elaine Thompson (Jam) 10.98; 4. Dafne Schippers (Hol) 11.01; 5. Tori Bowie (US) 11.03; 6. Dina Asher-Smith (GB) 11.06; 7. Blessing Okagbare (Ngr) 11.07; 8. Javianne Oliver (US) 11.10 PR.

400: 1. Shaunae Miller-Uibo (Bah) 49.52 (WL);

2. Phyllis Francis (US) 50.81; 3. Shakima Wimbley (US) 50.84; 4. Jessica Beard (US) 50.89; 5. Stephenie Ann McPherson (Jam) 51.01; 6. Jaide Stepter (US) 51.17; 7. Courtney Okolo (US) 51.54.

Non-DL 800: 1. Natoya Goule (Jam) 2:00.84; 2. Stephanie Brown (US) 2:01.84; 3. Lindsey Butterworth (Can) 2:02.24; 4. Carly Muscaro (US) 2:02.44 PR; 5. Laura Roesler (US) 2:02.68; 6. Cecilia Barowski (US) 2:04.43;… rabbit—McKayla Fricker (US) (59.17).

800: 1. Caster Semenya (SA) 1:55.92 (WL) ( U.S. all-comers record—old 1:56.56 Maria Mutola [Moz] ’93); 2. Ajee’ Wilson (US) 1:56.86 AL) (x, 6 A);

3. Francine Niyonsaba (Bur) 1:56.88; 4. Habitam Alemu (Eth) 1:57.78; 5. Charlene Lipsey (US) 1:58.35; 6. Margaret Wambui (Ken) 1:58.67; 7. Raevyn Rogers (US) 1:59.36; 8. Eunice Sum (Ken) 2:00.41; 9. Selina Büchel (Swi) 2:03.15;… rabbit—Chrishuna Williams (US) 57.25.

Non-DL 1500: 1. Dani Jones (US) 4:07.74 PR; 2. Alexa Efraimson (US) 4:08.70; 3. Cory McGee (US) 4:09.09; 4. Rachel Schneider (US) 4:10.10; 5. Shannon Osika (US) 4:11.09; 6. Stephanie Garcia (US) 4:11.52; 7. Lauren Johnson (US) 4:11.55; 8. Ce’aira Brown (US) 4:13.21; 9. Dana Mecke (US) 4:13.91; 10. Eleanor Fulton (US) 4:15.05; 11. Katie Mackey (US) 4:16.37; 12. Kate Van Buskirk (Can) 4:17.67;… dnf—Emily Lipari (US), Sara Vaughn (US).

1500: 1. Shelby Houlihan (US) 3:59.06 PR (AL; out WL) (5, x A);

2. Laura Muir (GB) 3:59.30; 3. Jenny Simpson (US) 3:59.37; 4. Rabab Arrafi (Mor) 3:59.51 PR; 5. Winny Chebet (Ken) 4:00.60; 6. Linden Hall (Aus) 4:00.86 NR; 7. Brenda Martinez (US) 4:02.65; 8. Dawit Seyaum (Eth) 4:02.81; 9. Beatrice Chepkoech (Ken) 4:05.36; 10. Mary Kuria (Ken) 4:06.07; 11. Kate Grace (US) 4:07.10; 12. Laura Weightman (GB) 4:07.48; 13. Zoe Buckman (Aus) 4:08.75; 14. Angelika Cichocka (Pol) 4:11.50;… rabbit—Dani Jones (US).

5000: 1. Genzebe Dibaba (Eth) 14:26.89 (WL) (8:45.33);

2. Letesenbet Gidey (Eth) 14:30.29 PR (8:45.66); 3. Hellen Obiri (Ken) 14:35.03 (8:46.01); 4. Gudaf Tsegay (Eth) 14:51.30 PR (8:53.85); 5. Lilian Rengeruk (Ken) 15:01.15; 6. Margaret Kipkemboi (Ken) 15:01.98; 7. Meraf Bahta (Swe) 15:10.20; 8. Dominique Scott Efurd (SA) 15:10.23 PR; 9. Rina Nabeshima (Jpn) 15:10.91 PR; 10. Alice Nawowuna (Ken) 15:11.00; 11. Lauren Paquette (US) 15:15.23 (out AL);… rabbit—Cory McGee (US) (2:52.35).

400H: 1. Janieve Russell (Jam) 54.06; 2. Dalilah Muhammad (US) 54.09; 3. Georganne Moline (US) 54.33; 4. Sage Watson (Can) 54.81; 5. Shamier Little (US) 55.23; 6. Zuzana Hejnová (CzR) 55.36; 7. Ashley Spencer (US) 55.58; 8. Cassandra Tate (US) 55.97.

Field Events

PV: 1. Jenn Suhr (US) 15-11 (4.85) (15-1, 15-5, 15-9 [3], 15-11, 16-¾ [xxx]) (4.60, 4.70, 4.80 [3], 4.85, 4.90 [xxx]); 2. Eliza McCartney (NZ) 15-11 NR (=12, x W) (14-9 [3], 15-1, 15-5 [2], 15-9 [3], 15-11, PB, 16-¾ [xxx]) (4.50 [3], 4.60, 4.70 [2], 4.80 [3], 4.85, PB, 4.90 [xxx]);

3. Sandi Morris (US) 15-5 (4.70) (14-9, 15-1, 15-5, 15-9 [xxx]) (4.50, 4.60, 4.70, 4.80 [xxx]); 4. Katie Nageotte (US) 15-5 (14-9 [2], 15-1 [2], 15-5 [2], 15-9 [xxx]) (4.50 [2], 4.60 [2], 4.70 [2], 4.80 [xxx]);

5. Rosbeilys Peinado (Ven) 15-1 (4.60); 6. Anzhelika Sidorova (Rus) 15-1; 7. Ekateríni Stefanídi (Gre) 15-1; 8. Holly Bradshaw (GB) 14-3¼ (4.35);… nh—Alysha Newman (Can).

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