2019 USATF XC Championships

Weekend Recap: Houlihan Introduces Her Video Game Speed To Cross Country

Weekend Recap: Houlihan Introduces Her Video Game Speed To Cross Country

From the cross country course to the pre-game Super Bowl festivities, track and field was a whole lot of fun over the weekend.

Feb 4, 2019 by Lincoln Shryack
Houlihan Runs Her USATF Win Streak To 8

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When we recall this past weekend of track and field eons from now, these five moments will be the ones to stand out above every other.

Here were the five best performances from the first weekend of February:

1. Shelby Houlihan Has Video Game Wheels No Matter The Distance

I remember a time, only a few days ago, when I foolishly thought that the 10k distance at the 2019 USATF XC Championships in Tallahassee would be long enough to take the sting out of Shelby Houlihan’s now-famous kick. I thought Molly Huddle and her marathon strength and her incomparable success at national championships-- she had somehow won a mind-boggling 16 of her previous 18 entering Saturday’s race-- would win out in a distance that Houlihan had never raced.

How foolish was I. 

Houlihan happily allowed Huddle to set the tempo while she just hung out close by for 9,000m+, then when the time came right with about 600m to go, the 25-year-old let ‘er rip in a way that has become her trademark on the track; Houlihan’s 3:02 last kilometer was eight seconds better than Huddle’s split, and seven seconds faster than the next best closer in the field.

My mind couldn’t be swayed before the race away from Huddle-- probably because of all that success in U.S. Championships and what not-- but the lesson here is to never deny the hot hand. Huddle may have too many U.S. titles to count, but Houlihan now has a streak of eight consecutive national titles going, and more importantly, she has the knowledge that her 3:57/14:34 speed will play in cross country. I can’t wait for World Cross.

2. Kenny Bednarek-Mania Is A Full-Blown Phenomenon

In the category of everyone not named Grant Holloway, junior college freshman Kenny Bednarek has been the biggest sprinting revelation so far in 2019. Virtually unknown outside of the Wisconsin high school ranks before this season, the Indian Hills frosh has made a case for the world's attention with a rapidly expanding list of jaw-dropping performances, his latest a 20.30 200m world lead on Saturday at the Frank Sevigne Husker Invite in Nebraska:

The mark is eighth-best in U.S. history, and only nine collegiate sprinters have ever run faster than 20.30 indoors. Those superlatives provide even more proof of just how special the 20-year-old can be very soon; just a week ago, he split 44.9 in the 4x400m on a flat 200m track.

These are marks befitting one of the best sprinters in the world, and it no longer seems like a stretch to call the junior college star as much in 2019.

3. Clayton Murphy, Ajeé Wilson Net Bonuses With “Flat Track” World Records

With $2k bonuses on the line for “flat track” world records, i.e the fastest performance on a non-banked indoor surface, reigning U.S. outdoor champions Clayton Murphy and Ajeé Wilson delivered on Saturday at the Camel City Invite at the JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Murphy ran a 1:45.92 indoor PR to better Mark Everett’s 1:46.28 that had stood for 28 years, while Wilson improved on former Olympic champion Maria Mutola’s 1:59.41 from 1996 with her 1:59.26.

Both runs were solo efforts for Murphy and Wilson, and the “records,” for whatever they’re worth, indicate that the pair could be in for more significant history this upcoming weekend at the Millrose Games. Murphy is in the Wanamaker Mile that will serve as a world record attempt for Oregon Project teammate Yomif Kejelcha, and the hot pace plus the American’s current fitness leaves open the possibility that he could run sub-3:50 in New York. Bernard Lagat’s American record is 3:49.89.

For Wilson, she knows she can run under the 1:58.64 800m American record held by her training partner Charlene Lipsey, as she did so two years ago at the Armory before her 1:58.27 was wiped out due to the infamous failed drug test from tainted beef. Her flat track record in North Carolina nearly guarantees that she’ll avenge that embarrassment with an American record in NYC.

4. Mondo Duplantis Hasn’t Even PR’d Indoors This Season, But He’s Already No. 2 In NCAA History

It’s been a busy winter for freshman LSU pole vaulter/2018 world leader Mondo Duplantis, who over the weekend jumped in his third competition in a Tiger uniform, and not surprisingly the 19-year-old has quickly notified Shawn Barber’s 5.91m collegiate record that it is not long for this world.

Duplantis cleared 5.87m in Baton Rouge on Friday, his second-best indoor mark ever and a mark that puts him No. 2 in NCAA indoor history. And while he failed at 5.92m, let’s remember that it is only early February and that this is a teenager who leapt 6.05m in August. 5.91m is as good as gone by the time indoors wraps up.

5. Usain Bolt: Still Got It

For a retired sprinter who was a famously slow starter, this ain’t too bad: 

But also, is anyone actually surprised that Usain Freaking Bolt can half-ass a 40 and run 4.22? He might've broken four if he was wearing something other than Puma loafers.