DES MOINES — There was no torch and it wasn’t a relay, but the way Shelby Houlihan raced past Jenny Simpson on Saturday at the USA Track and Field outdoor championships felt like a changing of the guard.
The two Iowa natives — Houlihan, 25, is a Sioux City East graduate and Simpson, 31, is from Webster City — put on a show at Drake Stadium in the women’s 1,500-meter run final.
Known for her strong finishes, Houlihan did just that over the final 50 meters and roared past Simpson and the rest of the field to win in 4 minutes, 5.48 seconds. Houlihan was in fourth place heading into the final 400 meters before burning up the blue oval with a final lap of 57.67.
Simpson was second both with 400 to go and at the end, finishing in 4:06.21. Kate Grace, Houlihan’s Nike/Bowerman Track Club teammate who led after the first 1,100 meters, was third in 4:07.04.
Other Nebraska and western Iowa athletes were part of the show at the home of the Drake Relays, which is hosting its third USATF national championship meet since 2010.
Kenzo Cotton advanced to Sunday’s 200-meter dash semifinals by finishing third in his first-round heat and eighth overall in 20.72.
“Today was pretty much just trying to get into that top three so that I could make it to the next round,” Cotton said. “I’m just focusing on my technique and my race plan.”
Cotton, the Arkansas graduate who set the Nebraska state record in the 100 and 200 while at Papillion-La Vista, was pleased with the last 100 meters but had to make an adjustment early in the race.
“On the curve I ran too close to the inside of my lane, so I had to come back toward the middle of the lane,” Cotton said. “I was trying to change my trajectory, so that messed me up a little bit and I had to catch up.”
Another Arkansas graduate, former Logan-Magnolia state champion Alex Gochenour, is in fifth place after the first day of the women’s heptathlon. Gochenour has 3,586 points, one point behind Riley Cooks and 30 behind second-place Lindsay Schwartz.
It could have been Gochenour in second place if not for a rare off-day in one of her best events, the high jump. She cleared her opening height — 5 feet, 3 inches — on her third attempt before missing all three attempts at 5-4¾, a height that would have given her 35 more points.
“I had great high jump warmups, probably the best I’ve had all year,” Gochenour said. “When it came to the (competition) it was one of those weird things where I couldn’t figure it out. I went out at a bar I shouldn't have had.”
After that disappointment, Gochenour turned one of her tougher events into her best one of the day by winning the shot put with a career-best of 48-8.
“So I went into the shot knowing that I not only needed to throw my best, but I needed to PR,” Gochenour said. “Being able to leave that event behind and start focusing on my next event has been big this year. I’ve known that PR is coming.”
Former Omaha North standout Brianna McGhee didn’t advance to Saturday’s final of the 100 hurdles as she was sixth in her semifinal round heat in 13.17. The top four finishers in both heats moved on to the final. McGhee, who lives and trains in Los Angeles, said a bad start doomed her chances to advance and make a run at lowering her personal-best time of 12.88 posted in 2016.
“I really wanted to do better here,” McGhee said. “It was poor execution. I ran better yesterday (12.99), so I was really hoping to get two rounds today and get that (time) drop.
“It was my start, and when your start is off, it will throw everything else off. If you don’t have a strong start to carry that momentum, against a field at this level, there’s not much chance to catch up.”
Wichita State distance specialist Rebekah Topham finished 13th in the 3,000 steeplechase in 10:04.45. From the first 100 meters the former Griswold, Iowa, star was at the back of the pack, but that didn’t bother her as she had a plan from which she didn’t want to deviate.
“I was expecting them to take off pretty fast, but I just didn’t want to do that,” Topham said. “I would rather run even or negative splits, and if I would have gone out with them, I’m pretty sure I would have slowed down. I was just running my own race.”
Topham will take some time off before preparing for her junior cross country season. She has finished three years of school in Wichita but sat out the cross country and track and field seasons in 2018 as a redshirt.
She chose that path after failing to make the NCAA outdoor championships after her 2016 sophomore season.
“I wanted to get a chance to improve,” Topham said. “My coaches were fine with it and they went with it. It was important for me to just focus on training.”
Nebraska hurdler Antoine Lloyd qualified seventh in 13.72 for the 110 high hurdles semifinals, while NU long jump specialist Shylia Riley failed to make the finals and finished 16th with leap of 19 feet, 4¾ inches.
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July 1: Air Force's Nic Ready hit a total of 55 home runs, including 21 in the final round, to edge Clemson's Logan Davidson in the College Home Run Derby.
June 28: Oregon State celebrates beating Arkansas 5-0 in Game 3 of the CWS championship series. The Beavers were down to their last out in Game 2 before a fielding blunder by the Razorbacks gave Oregon State a second life, which it took advantage of en route to the program's third CWS title.
June 18: John Olson, and Mary Olson, of Joslyn, Missouri, take cover under ponchos during a rain delay at the College World Series. Weather provided a huge problem in the 2018 CWS.
June 15: Cam'ron Jones checks out Omaha.com, or perhaps Snapchat, during the Huskers' Friday Night Lights camp.
June 9: Terence "Bud" Crawford celebrates his knockout victory over Jeff Horn to win the WBO welterweight title.
May 19: Fremont's Lucas Arps celebrates after winning the Class A 400-meter dash.
May 19: Lincoln Lutheran's Josie Puelz celebrates after clearing 12-2 in the Class C girls pole vault final.
May 17: Omaha Roncalli's Thomas Alitz cheers after scoring the winning run in the Class B state championship on a hit by Logan McGill with two outs in the seventh inning.
May 17: Omaha Creighton Prep's Eric Allbery, right, jumps on the dogpile as the Junior Jays celebrate their Class A state baseball title.
May 16: South Sioux City celebrates after defeating Elkhorn South in the Class B state soccer championship.
May 16: Kearney's Christian Dakan hoists the Class A state soccer trophy alongside his teammates.
May 14: Millard North celebrates its Class A state championship win against Omaha Marian by kissing the trophy.
May 14: Elkhorn celebrates its Class B championship win against Omaha Skutt.
May 9: Creighton's Will Robertson celebrates with Jack Strunc, left, after homering the fifth inning. The Jays beat UNO 10-6.
May 6: The Omaha Storm Chasers play below the newly dedicated Steve Pivovar Press Box at Werner Park.
April 21: Nebraska coach Scott Frost leads the Huskers during the Tunnel Walk on Saturday.
April 19: Awardee Dante Pettis and former Nebraska football player Johnny Rodgers, right, pictured during the Jet Award dinner.
April 19: Former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne attends the Jet Award dinner.
April 18: UNO's Malik Moore pitches against Nebraska. The Mavericks knocked off the Huskers for the first time since 1997.
April 11: Creighton's Will Robertson, left, and Thomas Luevano celebrate scoring on a triple by Jack Strunc.
April 11: Elkhorn South's Mo Gohr gains control of the ball in the Metro Conference tournament.
April 3: Scott Frost directs Husker football practice.
March 31: The boy campers pose for a photo at the Athletes' Training Center Futures Camp at Iowa West Field House.
March 27: Creighton defeats Nebraska 3-1 in the first matchup of the year.
March 25: Kansas' Malik Newman drives to the basket, drawing a blocking foul on Duke's Wendell Carter. The Jayhawks went on to defeat the Blue Devils in Omaha and advance to the Final Four.
March 17: Arizona State defeats Nebraska in the NCAA women's basketball tournament.
March 17: Nebraska Wesleyan celebrates winning the NCAA Division III men's basketball championship.
March 17: Creighton defeats Iowa in the NCAA women's basketball tournament.
March 17: Creighton's bench cheers as Michael Emodi hits a walk-off homer off Wichita State pitcher Chandler Sanburn in the Jays' home opener.
March 12: The Creighton women's basketball team celebrates making the NCAA tournament.
March 10: Wahoo celebrates winning the Class C-1 boys basketball title.
March 10: Nebraska City Lourdes' Quinten Vasa, center, holds up the trophy with his team.
March 9: Glenwood celebrates after winning its first boys basktball state title in school history.
March 3: Scotus' Maggie Feehan celebrates after winning the Class C-1 title.
March 3: Superior celebrates a Class C-2 championship win over Ravenna.
Feb. 25: Nebraska's Duby Okeke enters Pinnacle Bank Arena with his family at his side on senior night. The Huskers went on to defeat Penn State.
Nebraska's Duby Okeke enters Pinnacle Bank Arena with his family at his side on senior night.
Feb. 24: Creighton's Marcus Foster, left, and Davion Mintz celebrate Creighton's 89-83 overtime victory over Villanova.
Feb. 24: Omaha Creighton Prep's Colin LaFave competes in the 100 fly at the state swimming meet.
Feb. 24: Lincoln Southwest's Anna Heinrich, left, and Josie Ford celebrate their first and second-place finishes in the 50 free at the state swimming meet.
Feb. 17: Kearney’s Phillip Moomey is in the top 20 of his weight class in two national polls. Only a handful of underclassmen are ranked ahead of him.
Feb. 17: Omaha Burke's Jakason Burks does a backflip after defeating Millard South's Caleb Coyle during the 106-pound Class A final at the state wrestling championships.
Jan. 28: Omaha Lancers coach and General Manager David Wilkie talks with players during first-period action.
Jan. 26: UNO's Luke Nogard skates past the referee.
Jan. 16: Nebraska's Nicea Eliely gets excited during pregame introductions as the Huskers went on to beat Iowa.
Nebraska's James Palmer celebrates a home victory over Illinois with Isaiah Roby.
Jan. 9: Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, left, talks with former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne during the Outland Trophy banquet.
Jan. 4: Omaha Burke's Shereef Mitchell brings the ball up court in the Metro holiday tournament.
Jan. 1: In his final game with Central Florida, now-Nebraska coach Scott Frost raises the Peach Bowl title after defeating Auburn.