Shelby Houlihan grabbed the lead on the final lap and never looked back.
She knows better.
Houlihan, a 2016 Olympian and a former NCAA 1,500-meter champion at Arizona State, ran away from a talented field to win the women’s 3,000-meter run Saturday at the USA Track & Field Indoor Championships.
The meet concludes Sunday at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
Leading by just 16 hundredths of a second after 2,800 meters, Houlihan went full blast on the final lap and finished ahead of runner-up Katie Mackey by a comfortable 1.6 seconds.
Emma Coburn, the 2017 world outdoor steeplechase champion who helped pull former New Mexico Lobo Courtney Frerichs to a silver medal in London, placed third.
Afterward, Houlihan recalled an earlier race in which looking back, literally, cost her a victory.
“My senior year in college,” she said, “I got second in the 1,500 at (NCAA) nationals. I let up at the line.
“I was just thinking (Saturday) about that moment. ‘You’re not letting up; you’re not letting someone get you at the finish.'”
Houlihan’s winning time was 9:00.08, pedestrian by her standards and a concession to Albuquerque’s mile-high elevation.
But she already had the standard that matters: a time of 8:36.01, run at Boston on Feb. 3. That time qualifies her for the IAAF World Indoor Championships, scheduled for March 1-4 in Birmingham, England.
Mackey also earned a trip to England. Coburn, though she has a qualifying time, will stay home.
In the men’s high jump, Eric Kynard got one for the thumb.
He needs just one more for the other thumb.
Kynard won his specialty with a jump of 7 feet, 6½ inches, securing his fifth consecutive national indoor title. He also has four national outdoor titles.
“Who’s counting, though,” he joked afterward.
The 2012 Olympic silver medalist, though, was not the happiest of champions Saturday. He missed three times at 7-7¾, a clearance that would have qualified him for world championships.
One might think all shot put rings are the same.
Daniella Hill will tell you they’re not.
Hill won the women’s shot put Saturday with a throw of 59 feet, 4¾ inches, qualifying for Birmingham — a year after finishing 12th and last at nationals here throwing in a ring she calls “oddly fast, a mixture of the dust that’s on the concrete out here.
“Mentally I let the ring get to me last year, so I’m just happy I overcame that.”
The preliminary men’s 60-meter heats came off with no major surprises, but with some minor, unexpected tension.
The runners in the second of three heats, featuring newly minted world best-holder Christian Coleman, were in their blocks when, for no immediately known reason, they were told to stand up.
Then, on the second try, the starting gun sounded —only to have the gun go off again, normally the sign for a disqualifying false start — but there was no false start.
On the third try, Coleman ran the best qualifying time of the day — 6.46 seconds, not far off his world-best time of 6.37 despite having coasted the final 5 meters or so.
” The officials were really strict,” Coleman said. “The first time they said something about somebody’s foot wasn’t in the blocks. The second time there wasn’t even a false start, but something happened, I don’t know.
“(But) I feel really good. I feel confident.”
The term “world best” applied to Coleman’s 6.37 clocking on Jan. 19 in Clemson, S.C., is used advisedly. The IAAF, track and field’s world governing body, has yet to recognize it as a world record because electronic starting blocks were not used at the Clemson meet as specified by the IAAF.
Coleman should have two more shots at Maurice Greene’s recognized record of 6.39 in today’s semifinals and finals.