An Open Letter To Karissa Schweizer: Consider The Mile At NCAA Indoors

Hey Karissa,

With all due respect . . .

What did you eat for breakfast last Saturday?! Did you just wake up and decide that leading the world in the 5K and setting the No. 6 all-time Division I mark wasn’t enough — that you also had to cut eight seconds from your PR to run the fourth-fastest indoor mile in NCAA history? And then you followed that up at the NYRR Millrose Games by knocking down Jenny Simpson's indoor 3K record in 8:41.60! What’s next? 800m? 10K? Long jump? Is anything safe from your reign of terror?

Okay, I got a little carried away.

What I meant to say was congratulations on your mile PR at the Dr. Sander Invitational/Columbia Challenge. That 4:27.54 has vaulted your name into yet another elite archive of the NCAA’s finest as the fourth-fastest collegiate miler of all time, behind No. 3 Sally Kipyego (4:27.19), No. 2 Leah O’Connor (4:27.18), and No. 1 Jenny Simpson (4:25.91).

That leads me to the ultimate purpose of this letter: why you should consider running the mile at the 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships.

1. Only one of your contemporaries has ever run sub-4:30.

Last year, Elinor Purrier clocked a 4:29.44 to become NCAA DI's No. 10 all-time — and that’s almost two full seconds behind your fancy new PR. You’re even further ahead of reigning indoor champion Karisa Nelson, who took down Purrier and the now-graduated Kaela Edwards to clinch the 2017 NCAA indoor mile title in a PR of 4:31.24. Nelson also ran her fastest-ever 1500m in 4:10.91 back in May, but we have yet to see what kind of mile shape she’s in now. It’s still early in the year, and the possible NCAA field won't start to take shape until conference meets roll around, but it’s also worth noting where you currently stand among indoor mile performers this season.

Last weekend, you flew past Oregon’s Lilli Burdon, who ran the season’s second-fastest mile in 4:35.02 (her new PR) during your heat at the Dr. Sander Invitational/Columbia Challenge. The third-fastest time this season was turned in by New Mexico's Ednah Kurgat, who recorded a 4:35.29 PR on January 19, but I think it’s safe to assume she’ll opt for the 3K-5K double. We’ll have to see how the rest shakes out, as there’s still plenty of time for others to run fast — though probably not as fast as sub-4:30.  

2. You’re 1.63 seconds away from breaking the NCAA record.

With just three or four meets left in your indoor schedule, you don’t have many chances to close your last indoor season with a deliberate attempt at an NCAA record. The SEC indoor championships likely won't furnish enough pressure from the field to help push you past 4:27.54, but the the NCAA indoor championships could. 

Sure, it’s always difficult to set a PR, but it’s a lot easier when you’re pitted against the rest of the NCAA’s fastest women in a high-stakes environment during the peak of your training. And yes, the race could boil down to tactics, but if you dictate the pace from the gun and ride the pressure from the rest of the field, it could be just the right formula. 

3. The 5K-3K double: been there, done that.

You’ve already contested the 5K and 3K at the NCAA indoor championships with tremendous success, winning the former by eight seconds and finishing runner-up in the latter last year. Now that you’re armed with historic mile speed, don’t you think it’d be fun to flip the script in your senior year and try to carve your name into a new corner of NCAA history? Not only could you add a mile title to your resume, but you could also join a niche echelon of distance greats by pulling off the rare mile-3K double title:

  • 1988: Vicki Huber, Villanova
  • 1990: Suzy Favor, Wisconsin
  • 1993: Clare Eichner, Wisconsin
  • 2006: Johanna Nilsson, Northern Arizona
  • 2011: Jordan Hasay, Oregon

Or, you really go for it and attempt to become the inaugural indoor 5K-mile champion! In the 29 years that the 5K has been a part of the women's NCAA indoor championships program, not a single 5K victor has doubled in the mile and won it. With 15:17.31 5K grit and 4:27.54 mile speed, you could be the very first to accomplish that. 

Of course, it’s tougher to run three races instead of two, and with two on the same day. But the potential payoff would be the glory of chasing — and quite possibly obtaining — an NCAA mile title and record in the process.

Mull it over during your next long run.

Sincerely,
JZ

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