Houlihan continues to set new women’s XC marks at ASU

The Arizona State men’s cross country team got a look at their prospects for the upcoming Pac-12 Championships as they finished 21st at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational in Wisconsin – but finished behind only Stanford and UCLA among the Pac-12 teams in the national competition.

They also had some momentum going into the Wisconsin invite, coming off a third-place finish at the Pac-12 Preview in Santa Clarita, Calif., the week before.

The Sun Devil men, who are un-ranked this season, also finished the Adidas event ahead of No. 13 Notre Dame, No. 16 Minnesota, No. 29 Virginia, and No. 30 Missouri.

Just four years after the event began in Madison, it is generally seen by coaches as a preview of the NCAA Championships.  This year, the field included 19 of the top 30 men’s teams and 20 of the top 30 on the women’s side.

Zach Zarda, a transfer from the University of Kansas, running just his second race as a Sun Devil, led the ASU men with a 37th-place finish in a time of 23:57.

But it was Shelby Houlihan in the women’s competition that stole center stage.  The sophomore from Iowa, who has been the top finisher on the ASU squad in every college race in which she has competed, set a new school mark with her 13th-place finish.

Houlihan’s time of 19:58 is the fastest for a 6,000-meter cross country race, eclipsing the old mark set in 2005 by Olympian Amy Hastings.

But big things have been predicted for the rising young star since she arrived in Tempe.  Last year she also made history when she became the first in school annals to sweep both the Pac-12 cross country Newcomer of the Year and the track & field Newcomer of the Year awards.  In the outdoor track season, she set school records in the 800-meter and 1,500-meter events.

She has also become just the second individual in school history to go under 20 minutes in the 6k.

In the team competition, the women finished 31st in a field of 48 teams.

For 12 consecutive years, the ASU women’s team made it to the NCAA Championships, but missed out on the trip in 2010.  They returned again last year, which they had hoped would become the start of a new streak

But the Madison event was particularly important for the men, who were able to earn some valuable “at large” points that will go toward helping them qualify for the NCAA Championships.  Without a national ranking, the Devils will have to rely on an at-large bid.

The Pac-12 Championships will be held in Santa Clarita on October 27.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)