Shayla Houlihan joined the Iowa Cross Country and Track and Field staff on August 8, 2023. Houlihan serves as as assistant coach with the distance group and an assistant director of operations.
Houlihan spent two seasons as the UCSB Distance coach. Houlihan made an instant impact guiding the Gauchos to the 2021 Men’s Big West Cross Country Team title, earning her 2021 Big West Cross Country Coach of the Year honors.
Also taking home a conference award, Zach Parker earned Big West Freshman of the Year. The Gaucho men went on to finish 10th at the NCAA West Regional Cross Country meet.
On the track, she coached Brian Schulz to the Big West 5,000 meter and 10,000 meter titles. Schulz would go on to win Big West Track Athlete of the Year. She also guided Nick Randazzo to a Big West win in the 3000m Steeplechase.
Houlihan, an Iowa native, came to Santa Barbara after spending the previous two years in Flagstaff coaching a professional running group for Under Armor. Before that, Houlihan coached at UC Berkeley for seven years, three as the Head Cross Country Coach for the Golden Bears.
At CAL, Houlihan led men’s and women’s teams to the NCAA Cross Country Championship. Her athletes earned five All-American honors in cross country, including the first athlete in Cal history to earn four consecutive NCAA cross bids with Garrett Corcoran. Another CAL standout was Kelsey Santisteban, who placed 10th at the NCAA Championships in 2013 after placing third at the Pac-12 championships. Indoor, Corcoran eclipsed the four minute mile mark, running 3:59.79.
Houlihan also mentored Bethan Knights, who earned All-American honors in the 3000m and 5000m throughout the 2015, 16’ and 17’ seasons. Her 5000m best of 15:52.91 and 10,000m best of 33:30.13 rank her as one of the all-time CAL greats.
On the track she led Kai Benedict to a 14th place finish in the steeplechase at IAAF World U20 Championships in 2016. Benedict had a best time of 8:49.13 in the event.
Recently in Flagstaff, Houlihan mentored five US Olympic Trials qualifiers and one Kenyan Trials qualifier. She helped Taryn Rawlings lower her 1500m personal best of 4:10.20, set back in 2019, to 4:05.02.
Two of her star pupils with the Under Armor Dark Sky group achieved Olympic Games Time Standards in the 10k: Sharon Lokedi- 31:11.07 & Weini Kalati-31:10.08.
Houlihan’s athletes also found success on the road, especially with Emily Durgin, who captured medals at the USA 15k and 10k Road Championships and also at the Las Vegas Half Marathon, finishing in 69:47. Durgin placed 9th at the Olympic Trials in the 10,000m with her 32:25.45 performance in Eugene.
Prior to CAL, Houlihan coached at Utah, where she finished her collegiate career while earning her master’s degree in Health Promotion and Education. At Utah, she established a new school record in the 3000m steeplechase before embarking on her professional career.
Running for Brooks, Houlihan qualified for multiple USATF National Championships, culminating with an appearance at the 2012 US Olympic Trials in the 3000m Steeplechase.