SIOUX CITY | Shelby Houlihan finished 11th in the finals of the 5,000 meters at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics on Friday.
The former East standout ran a 15:08.89 -- just off her best time of 15:06.14 run at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Houlihan was not in close enough contact to use her strong late kick the way she did in Tuesday's preliminaries when she finished fourth in her heat to advance to the finals.
Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya won in an Olympic record of 14:26.17. She was followed to the line by fellow Kenyan Hellen Onsando Obiri for silver in 14:29.77 and Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia took bronze in 14:33.59.
Ayana, the Olympic champion in the 10,000 in world record time earlier at the Rio Games, built a big early lead and looked ready to sweep the two races. However, Cheruiyot slowly reeled her in and pulled away over the final couple of laps.
Houlihan ran significantly faster than she did in the prelims when she posted a time of 15:19.96.
Qualifying for the Olympics in the event was a significant accomplishment for a runner who had very limited experience in it before the trials. She was the highest finishing American in the race after teammate Abbey D'Agostino was unable to race after being tripped, falling to the track and tearing her ACL during the preliminaries.
The women's 5,000 was first contested at the 1996 Olympic Games. The U.S. has never medaled in the event with the best finish being ninth by Kara Goucher at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and Lynn Jennings in Atlanta in 1996.
Houlihan was an eight-time state champion at East with four victories in individual events and four in relays. She was also an eight-time winner at the Drake Relays in her prep career.
In college at Arizona State, Houlihan was a 12-time NCAA Division I All-American. She was the first Sun Devil in school history to win a national individual title in the outdoor 1,500.