Houlihan named Conference Newcomer of the Year

The Pac-12 Conference released its cross country Athletes and Coaches of the Year today and Arizona State University freshman Shelby Houlihan was honored as the Women’s Newcomer of the Year, as announced by commissioner Larry Scott on Tuesday afternoon.

Houlihan, a prep star out of East High School in Sioux City, Iowa, came in as one of the top middle distance recruits in the country but showed that her long distance skills shouldn’t be overlooked either as she put together one of the top freshman campaigns in ASU cross country history.   Houlihan paced the Sun Devils in each of the five races she competed in on the season, including the NCAA National Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.

Houlihan finished eighth at the Pac-12 Conference Championships in Litchfield Park, Ariz., last month, earning second-team All-Conference honors and finishing as the top freshman in the field.  She repeated the top freshman feat two weeks later at the NCAA West Regional Championships where she was 12th overall and earned All-Region honors.  

The freshman’s time of 20:15 at the conference championship was the fastest by an ASU harrier at any conference championships since the race length shifted to 6,000-meters and Houlihan consistently posted times under 21 minutes, no matter the course or conditions. 

For ASU, it is the third time that a student-athlete has been honored as the Newcomer of the Year from the conference, which started selecting the award in 1999.  Ali Kielty was the last to earn the honor in 2006 and Jessica Scalzo was also honored in 2002.  With three selection, ASU ranks tied with Washington in second behind Stanford for most all-time Newcomer of the Year selections.

Lawi Lalang, the NCAA champion for the University of Arizona men, was honored as the Men’s Athlete of the Year as well as the Newcomer of the Year.  Junior Jordan Hasay of Oregon was named the conference Women’s Athlete of the Year while Mark Wetmore of Colorado won the Coach of the Year award on the men’s side and Washington’s Greg Metcalf was named Coach of the Year for the women.  The awards were decided by a vote of the conference’s coaches. 

Arizona State is now looking ahead to the NCAA Indoor Track & Field season, set to begin on January 14 with the Lumberjack Invitational in Flagstaff, Ariz.  Stayed tuned to TheSunDevils.com for updates leading up to the commencement of the 2012 season.