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Shelby Houlihan looks back at favorite moments from Drake Relays
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TRACK AND FIELD | SHELBY HOULIHAN

Shelby Houlihan looks back at favorite moments from Drake Relays

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Coincidentally, Shelby Houlihan and Karissa Schweizer both picked the same moment as their favorite from their multiple appearances at Drake Stadium.

In an Instagram Live session on Friday with Drake Relays director Blake Boldon, Houlihan and Schweizer — both Iowa natives — picked the 5,000-meter race last summer at the USATF Championships that were held at the blue oval.

Boldon hosted the live chats in lieu of the Drake Relays, which were originally scheduled for this weekend before the COVID-19 pandemic pushed back the event. The event has been postponed with no makeup date announced. 

Houlihan, an East High School graduate, won that race on July 28 with a time of 15 minutes, 15.50 seconds, and that win was another added to her list of multiple national championships.

As Houlihan was coming down the homestretch, she remembered hearing stadium announcer Mike Jay calling her name and the crowd at Drake Stadium beaming with home state pride.

“That was awesome, especially to be able to do it in front of the home crowd,” Houlihan said. “It was special to do that there. … It was special for both of us. Iowa means a lot to both of us.”

Schweizer, who graduated from West Des Moines Dowling Catholic, finished right behind her Bowerman Track Club teammate and friend 1.47 seconds later.

The two met near the finish line to celebrate with a big hug and a victory lap. Both ladies agreed that it was a great moment not only for themselves, but also the fans who witnessed the two Iowans go 1-2 in a national race.

“I just really wanted to give back to the fans, because I was once there,” Schweizer said. “I was once a little kid in the stands asking for a picture. It was cool and it was a full circle moment.”

That wasn’t the only moment Houlihan recalled during her Friday chat with Boldon.

Houlihan re-told a story of her senior year at Arizona State, when the Sun Devils visited the Drake Relays in 2015.

Houlihan had been asking her coach at the time, Ryan Cole, to get the Sun Devils to the Drake Relays.

Then, once Louie Quintana coached ASU for Houlihan’s senior season, he decided to take ASU to Drake. Houlihan was excited that she was granted that opportunity before she left ASU.

She ran in the 800-meter professional race on that Friday night, and placed sixth with a time of 2:02.

The memorable race, however, came later that weekend when she was the anchor leg of the Sun Devils’ distance medley relay team.

“If I can remember this correctly, I had the mile leg, and our team wasn’t doing super well,” Houlihan said. “I got the baton and maybe 11th place, and we were 150 meters back. I had some Iowa pride and I wanted to put on a good show. I was so excited to come back to the Drake Relays.”

Houlihan knew she had to start picking runners off, but knew she couldn’t go out right away with a sprinting pace.

“I tried to be patient so I didn’t go out too fast and blow up,” Houlihan said. “I could hear the crowd and they were so loud. Sure enough, I think going into the last lap with 450 meters, I could see the lead pack, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I think I can catch them.’”

She had to make a split-second decision: Should she go for it then or wait and kick with 200 meters to go?

She chose the former, citing that she fed off the stadium’s energy.

Houlihan’s split was timed at 4:28, and she helped the Sun Devils climb up the leaderboard all the way to a second-place finish for the Sun Devils.

“I tried everything I could to get to the finish line in first place, and it didn’t end up happening,” Houlihan said. “That was still one of my favorite moments. To see the home crowd fans cheer me on, that was really special. I was really happy to be able to put on a good show for them. Even though I couldn’t come away with the Drake Relays flag, it was still a really special moment.”

Later on in the chat session, Boldon brought up the Skype session Houlihan had with Sioux City fans on Feb. 5 at the Wheelhouse.

Houlihan partnered with her uncle, Bob Prince as well as Jay to have the opportunity for area fans to connect with the 2016 Olympian runner while she was at altitude camp.

“I always want to go to the events back home, but it’s hard with my schedule,” Houlihan said. “Whatever Jay needs, I’m always going to be there for him. … It was a really cool event to be able to Skype in on. Anytime I can help out, I’m happy to do so.”

Her workout schedule consists of working out Tuesdays and Fridays in Portland, Oregon, then going on a long run Sunday.

Houlihan admitted that it’s a weird cycle given the circumstances.

“Usually, it’s speed, then strength, then a long run,” Houlihan said with a laugh. “It’s more specific sessions. I don’t know the ins and outs of (Bowerman head coach) Jerry (Schumacher’s) workout schedule. It’s something along the lines of speed, strength and some long runs mixed in there.”

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