Elinor Purrier of New Hampshire out-kicked defending NCAA cross country champion Karissa Schweizer in the final stages of the adidas DI Pre-National Invitational in Louisville, Kentucky. Her winning time of 19:28.43 matched Molly Seidel's 2015 NCAA-winning time from Tom Sawyer State Park and distanced Schweizer, a three-time NCAA champion last year, by a full second.
No. 7-ranked Dani Jones of Colorado out-battled No. 5 Katie Rainsberger of Oregon for third, 19:33 to 19:42, though Rainsberger's No. 4-ranked Ducks enjoyed a 28-point win over No. 1 Colorado. Oregon's Lilli Burdon (seventh, 20:00.6), Carmela Cardama Baez (15th, 20:09.1), Jessica Hull (16th, 20:10), and Emma Abrahamson (30th, 20:26.6) have now proven they are not only capable of defending what was a surprise national title in 2016, but may even be the favorites to do so.
Caroline Sang of Charlotte -- an NCAA 5K finalist last spring who has never made the national cross country meet -- was the race's early leader with Purrier, Schweizer of Missouri, Jones, Sharon Lokedi of Kansas, Winny Koech of UTEP, plus Oregon's Rainsberger and Burdon in tow with Hull not far behind. Schweizer took control around three miles, which she passed just under 16 minutes, but couldn't shake the women around her; by then the group had winnowed to Purrier, Rainsberger, and Jones.
Just as in the men's race, the best action happened in the final quarter mile as Purrier -- an All-American miler and steeplechaser who was seventh at NCAA XC in 2016 -- overtook Schweizer. The Missouri senior hung on her shoulder, as if waiting to time her final surge, but Purrier wouldn't hear of that as she was smooth to the finish while Schweizer flailed in fatigue.
It should be noted that while Schweizer was nearly perfect at NCAAs last year -- winning titles in cross country, the indoor 5K, and outdoor 5K -- she's not without peer as Jones defeated her for the indoor 3K title and Amy-Eloise Neale of Washington beat her over 5K at the Stanford Invitational. She got over the 5K loss by decimating the NCAA outdoor 5K and placing fourth in the event at USAs. Don't be surprised if this mid-season loss makes her more determined than ever.