Patiently waiting to strike at just the right time, Shelby Houlihan, as she had in the 1500 the preceding day, once again ran down a fellow Hawkeye on the final lap to successfully defend her 5000 title and complete her third Nationals distance double in the last 16 months.
With threatening storm clouds looming in the distance, the race got underway as 22 runners responded to the starter’s pistol. Maya Weigel and Katrina Coogan jumped out to set a modest opening pace. With the tempo still restrained, new leader Cally Macumber split the first kilometer in 3:08 with Houlihan back in the pack in 12th. With just over 6 laps remaining Anna Rohrer charged to the front to pick up the tempo, passing 3K in 9:33.10. With the Notre Dame star increasing the pace, the always-alert Houlihan left the mid-pack crowd and smoothly worked her way up to 5th to stay within striking distance.
The racing began in earnest with 3 laps remaining as Karissa Schweitzer, the newly crowned NCAA 10K champ, accelerated to the front with the hopes of tiring the field’s big kickers. With the race now on, defending champ Houlihan—the biggest of kickers—quickly moved up into 2nd, covering the new pro’s move. Although Iowa native Schweitzer continued to up the tempo for the 2 laps leading up to the bell, the former Missouri star proved unable to shake the frisky Houlihan, who was now sensing yet another double could be within her grasp. Just steps behind the two frontrunners at the bell were Rachel Schneider and yearly list leader Lauren Paquette.
With 230m left, Houlihan erupted and roared by Schweitzer into the lead. Coming off the final curve and with the race well in hand, she accelerated one final time to make doubly sure the gold would be hers. Crossing the line first in 15:31.03 after a 62.85 last lap, Houlihan captured her seventh national title. Aided by a strong final circuit, Schneider (15:32.71) got up for 2nd, Schweitzer [15:34.31] hung on for the final podium spot, while Paquette [15:36.83] claimed 4th.
Afterwards, the medalists offered insights on the race’s endgame. Schweitzer provided a candid slice of realism on her long-drive strategy: “I realized I had all these kickers behind me and just knew I had to take it down because that would give me the best shot and really make it more of an honest race.”
Runner-up Schneider, doubling back from the 1500 as did the winner, explained her race plan: “We wanted to run as relaxed as possible to save as much energy early on and see what we had at the end. I felt like I did a really good job with that. I stayed in contact with the front and I felt really, really good. So I got up on Shelby’s shoulder with about 400 to go and with 100 to go I still felt good.” And with a sheepish smile she added, “But Shelby put that kick in, things kind of happened, and I settled for 2nd.”
Now with consecutive victories in the national outdoor 5000, the champion seemed truly dazed after once again notching a double. “I don’t know if it has really hit me yet,” she exclaimed. “I did set out to try to win both. But it was awesome that I was able to do that.” Sporting French-braided hair and clutching two loaves of French bread, she shared with the media how she saw the competition unfold: “I felt good throughout the race and I knew I had a lot left with about 800m left. But my coach [Jerry Schumacher] told me just before the race to just wait until 400 at least before I take the lead. And even then I didn’t think I could wait until like 200m to go.”
Before heading off to be with her family, she was asked where that kick came from. “Somewhere deep down!” she answered.
USATF WOMEN’S 5000 RESULTS
1. Shelby Houlihan (BowTC) 15:31.03
(37.70, 76.69 [1:54.39], 75.82 [3:10.21], 75.48 [4:25.69], 77.27 [5:42.96], 77.84 [7:00.80], 79.21 [8:20.01], 73.91 [9:33.92], 75.72 [10:49.64], 73.40 [12:03.04], 73.24 [13:16.28], 71.90 [14:28.18], 62.85) (12.9, 28.7, 62.85, 2:14.75, 3:27.99, 4:41.39);
2. Rachel Schneider (UArm) 15:32.71 (14.5, 30.3, 64.32, 2:16.21, 3:29.38, 4:43.17);
3. Karissa Schweizer (Mo) 15:34.31 (15.6, 31.8, 66.24, 2:18.29, 3:31.53, 4:45.21);
4. Lauren Paquette (Brk) 15:36.83 (65.93, 2:19.04, 3:32.62, 4:46.71);
5. Vanessa Fraser (Stan) 15:36.89 (68.02, 2:19.84, 3:32.92, 4:46.84);
6. Katie Mackey (BB) 15:39.25 (69.58, 2:21.87, 3:35.41, 4:49.35);
7. Allie Buchalski (BrkB) 15:40.62;
8. Sara Sutherland (Sauc) 15:45.91;
9. Erin Clark (Co) 15:54.17;
10. Anna Rohrer (NDm) 15:59.58;
11. Maggie Montoya (RootsRP) 16:02.26;
12. Bridget Lyons (AtTC) 16:06.33;
13. Maya Weigel (Strava) 16:08.58;
14. Danielle Shanahan (HokaNAz) 16:09.96;
15. Sarah Brown (NBal) 16:10.93;
16. Cally Macumber (unat) 16:17.08;
17. Ashley Maton (unat) 16:21.61;
18. Anna Shields (PtP) 16:32.44;
19. Katrina Coogan (NBal) 16:38.98;
… dnf—Eleanor Fulton (HPW). □