2016 NCAA W Mile Preview: Can UNH’s Elinor Purrier Win One For the Small Schools?

By LetsRun.com
March 4, 2016

The 2016 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships will be held next Friday and Saturday at the Birmingham CrossPlex in Birmingham, Ala. We’re previewing the mid-d and distance events (800, mile, 3000, 5000 and distance medley relay) one by one. Below, you’ll find our analysis of the women’s mile.

*Schedule/start lists/resultsEntries *Men’s team projections & analysis *Women’s team projections & analysis

LRC previews: M 800 * W 800 * W Mile * M Mile * W 3K/5K *M 3k/5k *Men’s team analysis *Women’s team analysis

TV/Streaming: The meet will be streamed live on ESPN3.com.

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Discuss the meet on our world famous fan forum / messageboard: Unofficial NCAA prediction and discussion thread

Women’s Mile (prelims Friday 6:45 p.m. ET, final Saturday 5:10 p.m. ET)

Name Year School SB PB Comment
Elinor Purrier SO New Hampshire 4:29.71 4:29.71 Entered season as a 4:36 miler, now she’s the fastest woman in the NCAA
Kaela Edwards JR Oklahoma St. 4:32.14 4:32.14 Converted 800 runner (2nd NCAAs ’15) has stepped up to mile; won 1k+mile at Big 12s
Andrea Keklak SR Georgetown 4:33.24 4:33.24 4th in NCAA indoor 800 in ’14
Erin Teschuk SR North Dakota St. 4:34.00 4:32.35 5th last year; ran steeple at World Champs for Canada
Shannon Osika SR Michigan 4:34.34 4:34.34 Big 10 champ
Shannon Morton SR Virginia Tech 4:35.74 4:35.74  Crossed the line 2nde at ACCs, was DQd. Ran 4:13 for 1500 in 2014.
Jamie Stokes SR Weber State 4:35.83 4:35.83  First NCAA appearance. Improved from 4:43 pb to 4:35.
Angel Piccirillo SR Villanova 4:36.00 4:24.28 7th last year; broke NCAA 1k record (2:40.82) at Big East Champs
Iona Lake SR Virginia 4:36.11 4:36.11 ACC champ
Sophie Connor SR New Mexico 4:42.53 4:42.53 Mountain West champ
Katie Hoevet SR Purdue 4:36.53 4:36.53 Big 10 runner-up
Megan Moye JR NC State 4:37.04 4:37.04 ACC runner-up
Eleanor Fulton SR Washington 4:37.26 4:37.26  When she ran 4:37, winning time was 4:32.
Grace Barnett SO Clemson 4:37.32 4:37.32  Only 5th at ACCS in mile and 3k.
Frances Schmiede JR Yale 4:37.77 4:37.77  Only 5th in mile at Heps (Ivy) meet.
Heather MacLean JR UMass 4:37.80 4:37.80 Atlantic 10 champ

Only 11 women in NCAA history have broken 4:30 in the mile. And Elinor Purrier, the most recent to do it and the 2016 NCAA leader by 2.43 seconds, might be the most unlikely of the bunch. Purrier, a redshirt sophomore at the University of New Hampshire, hails from Montgomery Center, Vt., a tiny town 20 minutes south of the Canadian border. She grew up on her family’s farm, breeding pigs and rising well before dawn to milk and feed the family’s cows. Purrier, who was 5’3” and 130 pounds in high school, does not look like your typical rail-thin collegiate miler, either.

Yet her talent is undeniable. In HS, her mileage totals were just 19 mpw as a sophomore, 27 as as a junior and 33 as s senior and yet she ran 4:50 for 1600 as a junior and was 17th at NXN. As a freshman at UNH in 2014, she ran 4:36 in the mile indoors and made NCAAs (didn’t make the final) before winning the US junior title in the steeple and making the world junior final (finished 9th). After taking 7th in the steeple at NCAAs last spring, Purrier redshirted in xc and then really broke out this winter by running 4:29.71 in Boston on February 12, a massive 6+ second PR. Now she heads to Birmingham as the NCAA favorite.

In Purrier’s two big races, a 4:37.54 at the Terrier Classic and that 4:29.71 at the Valentine Invitational, she pasted the collegiate competition. At Valentine, she beat the #3 seed at NCAAs, Andrea Keklak, by over three seconds; at Terrier, she defeated NCAA qualifiers Heather MacLean and Iona Lake by three and seven seconds, respectively. After racing pros in both those races, the level of competition shouldn’t faze her at NCAAs.

The one concern with Purrier is that she may not have elite speed (her only time is a 2:13 from freshman year) but that may not be a factor. Last year’s NCAA champ, Leah O’Connor, didn’t have terrific 800 speed either, but she blew the field away by running hard from the gun, setting the meet record of 4:27.18. Leading wire-to-wire is less perilous indoors than outdoors (positioning is more important and there’s no wind), and if Purrier takes the same approach O’Connor did a year ago, there might not be a woman in the field that can run with her.

BTAddjfIMAAeNvZ Purrier has broken out in a big way in 2016. Photo courtesy UNH Wildcats

If the pace does lag, there are some big kickers waiting in the wings. Oklahoma State’s Kaela Edwards built on her cross country success by moving up from the 800 last year (she was 2nd in that event at NCAA Indoors) and she’s run stellar marks in a variety of distances (2:03 800, 4:32 mile, 9:06 3k). Edwards is coming off a terrific 1k-mile double at Big 12s, and with 2:02 800 speed, she’s going to be a major threat in this race. The only question is whether she runs the DMR as well.

Last year, top milers O’Connor and Colleen Quigley sat out of the DMR to rest up for the mile and Edwards could do the same in 2016 (Big 10 champ Shannon Osika is another woman who will have to face the mile/DMR quandary this year). Oklahoma State coach Dave Smith told us that Edwards “probably won’t” run the DMR as she really wants the mile title and thus she and teammate Savannah Camacho (#5 seed in 800) will likely both focus on their individual events.

Another dangerous woman is Villanova’s Angel Piccirillo, fresh off an NCAA record in the 1k at Big Easts (2:40.82). Like Edwards, Picciliro, who was seventh in this race last year, has good range (both are 9:063k runners and Edwards has a 2:04 800 pb).

North Dakota State’s Erin Teschuk is the top returner (5th last year) and has the #3 pb in the field (4:32.35, behind Purrier and Edwards). Like Purrier, she hails from a small school, but her talent is big and she’s got plenty of experience in marquee races: she was also 7th in the 3k at NCAAs last year, then took 5th in the steeple outdoors before running at Worlds in Beijing for her native Canada. She’s also got a coach who knows his stuff in 2:11 marathoner Andrew Carlson (sixth at the 2012 Olympic Trials).

LRC prediction: The gap is large enough between Purrier and the field that we’re picking her for the win. But if the race goes slow and Edwards doesn’t have to run the DMR on Friday, she has a great chance to spring the upset.

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Discuss the meet on our world famous fan forum / messageboard: MB: Unofficial NCAA prediction and discussion thread.

Talk about Elinor Purrier as well: MB: Elinor Purrier 4:29 Mile… WTH???

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