When Elinor Purrier out-kicked Karissa Schweizer at the DI Pre-National Invitational this past Saturday, a collective gasp went out around the NCAA cross country circuit. Was the prohibitive favorite for November's national crown no more? Just a year ago, the Mizzou runner completed the distance triple crown by winning NCAA XC, indoor 5K, and outdoor 5K titles.
Ednah Kurgat of New Mexico had put her own dominant mark on the Wisconsin Invitational the previous day, finishing just three seconds outside the course record, and we gave her the elusive No. 1 FloXC ranking for her efforts. So maybe Schweizer's days as No. 1 have been numbered anyway.
But the following is an explanation of not only why the Missouri senior gets to retain the FloXC No. 2 ranking ahead of Purrier (who moved from No. 9 to No. 3), but why the 21-year-old should still be considered a title favorite.
Karissa Schweizer reacts to her runner-up finish at Pre-Nats:
Schweizer Is Never Undefeated In An NCAA Title-Winning Season
Don't forget that Schweizer's NCAA XC win was a huge shock in 2016. Erin Finn of Michigan had soundly defeated her by 30 full seconds at the Pre-Nationals Invitational in Terre Haute, 19:44 to 20:14, as Schweizer finished fourth behind Finn, Erin Clark of Colorado, and Peyton Bilo of Cal Poly.
But in the final stages of the national championship race, it was the SEC champion who quietly snuck up on Finn and Notre Dame's Anna Rohrer to secure her first national title. Schweizer put three seconds on her foes in the final sprint stretch to finish in 19:41, while Finn and Rohrer nearly crossed together in 19:44.
The same thing sort of happened outdoors, as she didn't win a race until the SEC Championships 5K in May.
Photo via @Nikki_Hiltz
Prior to her 17-second trouncing of the SEC 5K field, Schweizer had placed runner-up to Nikki Hiltz of Arkansas in the SEC 1500m (Hiltz went on to be runner-up in the 1500m at NCAAs), eighth in the Drake Relays 1500m (albeit, vs. a professional field), second in a 1500m at Alabama, and second to Washington's Amy-Eloise Neale in a 5K at the Stanford Invitational. Schweizer and Neale's sprint-to-the-finish 15:39.3 to 15:39.75 nail-biter was very similar to Purrier's 19:28.5 to 19:29.7 win at Pre-Nats.
Watch Amy-Eloise Neale out-kick Karissa Schweizer in the Stanford 5K, 15:39.3 to 15:39.75:
Of the seven races that Schweizer ran during the '16-'17 indoor season, she lost just once. Unfortunately, it was at the apex of the season in the NCAA indoor 3K final vs. hard closer Dani Jones of Colorado, who had anchored the Buffs to the DMR victory the previous day. Schweizer did win the NCAA indoor 5K title with an 18-second PB of 15:19.14, eight and 10 seconds ahead of XC foes Finn and Rohrer.
The Women's NCAA DI XC Champion Has Usually Lost At Least Once
Let's take a look back at the past 11 years of women's NCAA DI XC championship history.
If you take out an outlier like Sally Kipyego of Texas Tech, who won a record three straight cross country titles from 2006 to 2008 (no one else has ever won more than twice), then the individual women's NCAA DI XC champion is actually more likely to have lost at least once during the regular season.
Five to three, to be exact.
Schweizer in 2016 (5-1 record), Molly Seidel of Notre Dame in 2015 (3-2), Betsy Saina of Iowa State in 2012 (4-1), Sheila Reid of Villanova in 2010 (4-1), and Angela Bizzarri of Illinois in 2009 (3-3) all suffered at least one and as many as three losses during the season prior to their NCAA win.
For her second NCAA XC title in 2011, Reid was undefeated (4-0), as was Abbey D'Agostino of Dartmouth in 2013 (6-0) and Kate Avery of Iona in 2014 (3-0).
|2016||Karissa Schweizer||Missouri||(5-1)||(4th @ Pre Nats, 1st @ SECs, 1st @ MW Region)|
|2015||Molly Seidel||Notre Dame||(3-2)||(3rd @ Notre Dame, 2nd @ Wisco, 1st @ ACCs, 1st @ GL Region)|
|2014||Kate Avery||Iona||(3-0)||(1st @ MAAC, 1st @ NE Region)|
|2013||Abbey D'Agostino||Dartmouth||(6-0)||(1st @ Wisco, 1st @ Heps, 1st @ NE Region)|
|2012||Betsy Saina||Iowa State||(4-1)||(1st @ Griak, 2nd @ Wisco, 1st @ Big 12, 1st @ MW Region)|
|2011||Sheila Reid||Villanova||(4-0)||(1st @ Wisco, 1st @ Big East, 1st @ Mid-Atlantic Region)|
|2010||Sheila Reid||Villanova||(4-1)||(1st @ Penn State National, 2nd @ Notre Dame, 1st @ Big East, 1st @ Mid-Atlantic Region)|
|2009||Angela Bizzarri||Illinois||(3-3)||(11th @ Spiked Shoe, 2nd @ Wisco, 1st @ Pre-Nats, 2nd @ Big 10, 1st @ MW Region)|
|2008||Sally Kipyego||Texas Tech||(4-0)||(1st @ Chile Pepper, 1st @ Big 12, 1st @ Mtn Region)|
|2007||Sally Kipyego||Texas Tech||(5-0)||(1st @ Chile Pepper, 1st @ Big 12, 1st @ Mtn Region)|
|2006||Sally Kipyego||Texas Tech||(6-0)||(1st @ Chile Pepper, 1st @ Big 12, 1st @ Mtn Region)|
Allie Ostrander defeated Molly Seidel, 19:19 to 19:22, at the 2015 Wisconsin Invitational. A month later in Louisville, Seidel prevailed over Ostrander, 19:28 to 19:33. Watch their Wisconsin battle below:
Ednah Kurgat And Elinor Purrier Have Never Won An NCAA Title
Experience is key. Schweizer's top competitors to this point in the season are Kurgat and Purrier, neither of whom has ever won an NCAA title. Schweizer has won three. Let's take a closer look at each of their NCAA championship records.
Karissa Schweizer NCAA Championship Record
|2017 Outdoor 5K||1st|
|2017 Indoor 5K||1st|
|2017 Indoor 3K||2nd|
|2016 Outdoor 5K||3rd|
Ednah Kurgat NCAA Championship Record
|2016 Outdoor 5K||4th|
|2016 Indoor 5K||9th|
Elinor Purrier NCAA Championship Record
|2017 Outdoor 3K SC||4th|
|2017 Indoor Mile||2nd|
|2016 Outdoor 3K SC||3rd|
|2016 Indoor Mile||3rd|
|2015 Outdoor 3K SC||7th|
|2014 Indoor Mile||14th (prelim)|
If you're betting on experience, it's tough not to place your money on Schweizer.