Favorites Josh Kerr and Elle Purrier Win NCAA Mile Titles In Contrasting Ways

By LetsRun.com
March 10, 2018

COLLEGE STATION, Texas —  Redemption.

Look at the results of the men’s and women’s mile finals at the 2018 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships and you’ll see that New Mexico’s Josh Kerr and New Hampshire’s Elle Purrier — the two NCAA leaders and pre-race favorites — were your national champions.

But whether you’re a favorite or an underdog, it’s never easy to win an NCAA title and both Kerr and Purrier had to overcome adversity to reach this point. For Kerr, it was the stomach cramps that resulted in a last-place finish for his New Mexico team in last night’s distance medley relay — an issue that lingered into today and caused Kerr to consider scratching from this race. For Purrier, it was the mental anguish of several near-misses at NCAAs in the past, most notably a runner-up finish on this same track last year. For both, it was redemption.

Kerr won the race, his third NCAA title, in similar fashion to his first one at 2017 NCAA indoors, with a devastating late-race move. Kerr was near the front of the race throughout, leading the second and third laps, and was close behind Oregon freshman Reed Brown at 809 meters (2:02.61).

Last year, Kerr made his winning move just before two laps to go and that was the plan again this year as he went to the front at that point and ripped a 27.52 200, easily the fastest split of the race to that point. That succeeded in stringing out the field, but at the bell, Virginia Tech’s Vincent Ciattei and Oregon’s Sam Prakel were both still in with a chance behind Kerr. He left no doubt on the final lap however, upping the ante with a 26.71 to win handily in the end in 3:57.02 as Ciattei held off Prakel in a fierce battle for 2nd, 3:58.36 to 3:58.59. Neil Gourley, who anchored VaTech to the DMR win last night, was 7th in 4:00.64.

Kerr dominated Kerr dominated

Purrier won her title the hard way: the 4:26 miler (#2 in NCAA history) went to the lead early and never gave it up until midway down the homestretch when Colorado’s Dani Jones – – who won the 3k and anchored Colorado’s winning DMR at this meet last year — pulled even and maybe ahead by an inch or two before Purrier managed to rally back and get the narrowest of wins. She hit 809 in in 2:18.17 and gradually turned the screws, going 34.55-34.10-33.88 for her next three laps to hit the bell in the lead. Notre Dame’s Jessica Harris, who had run on Purrier’s outside shoulder for much of the race, was still right there at that point, but she faded as Purrier reached her top gear on the bell lap.

The race was far from over, however, as Jones took Harris’ place in second. Coming around the final turn, Jones moved out in an attempt to pass. Despite Purrier’s incredibly fast PR, it is Jones, not, Purrier, who is known for her kick, and once Jones made her move, it looked as if another near-miss for Purrier was inevitable. Midway down the homestretch, Jones pulled even and then maybe ahead by an inch or two inches but Purrier, a senior sensing her window of opportunity about to shut, dug deeper than ever before and outleaned Jones for an epic win, 4:31.76 to 4:31.82.

It was this close.

Article continues below player.

Results and our analysis appear below.

Men’s Results
1 Josh KERR SO New Mexico 3:57.02
2 Vincent CIATTEI SR Virginia Tech 3:58.36 PB
3 Sam PRAKEL SR Oregon 3:58.59
4 Patrick JOSEPH SR Virginia Tech 4:00.39
5 Kasey KNEVELBAARD SO Southern Utah 4:00.57 SB
6 Cole ROCKHOLD JR Colorado St. 4:00.61 SB
7 Neil GOURLEY SR Virginia Tech 4:00.64
8 Reed BROWN FR Oregon 4:01.94
9 Jonah KOECH JR UTEP 4:02.26
10 Sean TOBIN SR Ole Miss 4:06.90
Women’s Results
1 Elinor PURRIER SR New Hampshire 4:31.76
2 Dani JONES JR Colorado 4:31.82 PB
3 Nikki HILTZ SR Arkansas 4:32.59 PB
4 Rhianwedd PRICE-WEIMER SR Miss State 4:33.00 SB
5 Elise CRANNY SR Stanford 4:34.48
6 Millie PALADINO JR Providence 4:34.93
7 Whittni ORTON SO BYU 4:35.44
8 Jessica HARRIS SR Notre Dame 4:37.22
9 Amy CASHIN SR West Virginia 4:43.67
10 Sarah HARDIE SR Columbia 4:51.07

Quick Take: Josh Kerr is the 9th man in history to repeat as NCAA mile champion and the first to do so since Lee Emanuel won for New Mexico in 2009 and 2010.

Here are the others on the list.

1967 Jim Ryun Kansas 3:58.6
1968 Jim Ryun Kansas 4:06.8
1969 Jim Ryun Kansas 4:02.6

1975 Eamonn Coghlan Villanova 4:02.0
1976 Eamonn Coghlan Villanova 4:01.48

1979 Suleiman Nyambui UTEP 3:57.89
1980 Suleiman Nyambui UTEP 4:05.26
1981 Suleiman Nyambui UTEP 4:01.85
1982 Suleiman Nyambui UTEP 4:00.65

1988 Joe Falcon Arkansas 3:59.78
1989 Joe Falcon Arkansas 3:58.06

1993 Niall Bruton Arkansas 4:00.05
1994 Niall Bruton Arkansas 3:59.34

1996 Julius Achon George Mason 4:02.83
1997 Julius Achon George Mason 3:59.85

2007 Leonel Manzano Texas 3:59.90
2008 Leonel Manzano Texas 4:04.45

2009 Lee Emanuel New Mexico 4:00.36
2010 Lee Emanuel New Mexico 3:59.26

2017 Josh Kerr New Mexico 4:03.22
2018 Josh Kerr New Mexico 3:57.02

Kerr was not happy with his performance in the DMR last night and was determined to come back and retain his mile title this afternoon. He felt that a serious approach was necessary, and to watch Kerr on the start line was to watch the picture of focus and determination.

“It maybe [might] not [have] been a bit like me but it was exactly what I needed to do,” Kerr said.

Afterwards, with another title in hand, he found a release for his pent-up emotions: a TV camera. Kerr approached and acted like “an idiot” (Kerr’s words) as he celebrated a hard-won NCAA title.

See it for yourself.

Post-race interview with Kerr.

Quick Take: Oregon’s Reed Brown and Sam Prakel were working together

Reed Brown, the Foot Locker champion and sub 4 high school miler, took the lead at 800m and led the next lap until his teammate Sam Prakel too over. Afterwards, Brown and Prakel said this was planned they were planning to work together. Brown was hoping to hang with Prakel but was perfectly content to try and set up Prakel for the win. It didn’t work out, but Brown is pleased with how he has adapted to the Oregon program and Prakel has one outdoor season left to get the elusive NCAA title.

Elle Purrier celebrates Elle Purrier celebrates

Quick Take: The no-repeat streak continues on the women’s side

As we mentioned above, this was the 54th edition of the men’s mile and nine men have managed to defend their crown and repeat as champions, doing so on 12 different occasions. So there is a repeat winner in the men’s mile 22.2% of the time (12/54).

On the women’s side, it hardly ever happens. In fact, it’s only happened once (Suzy Favor won back to back in 1989 and 1990) in the 36 editions of the women’s mile — that’s just 2.8% of the time. The 2017 champ, Samford’s Karisa Nelson didn’t even make the meet this year individually (she only raced once all year) and with Elle Purrier being a senior, we already know there won’t be a repeat winner in 2019 so knock that down to 2.7% (1/37).

Purrier was still in a state of shock as she made her way through the mixed zone, but was able to do an interview.

“It’s a huge relief, but I’m really excited,” Purrier said. “I’m honored to finally claim that title.”

Purrier added that today’s race was a bit of an adjustment for her since she’s been used to being dragged to fast times by professionals, but she handled the change magnificently.

“I needed to do the work this time and I was confident that I could do it,” Purrier said.

QT: Dani Jones Gets 2nd After Battling Achilles Injury 

Jones only raced twice this indoor season as she was battling an achilles injury. She said at times she thought about calling it a season, but said coach Heather Burroughs helped remind her a fear of not doing as well as last year where she won the 3000m and the DMR was not a good enough reason to give it a try.

The result was a gutsy run tonight that almost gave her the NCAA title. Positioning is more important indoors than out and that might have cost Jones tonight.

More: Yesterday: LRC After A Disastrous 4:20.30 Split On The DMR, Josh Kerr Vows Something “Exciting” In The Mile Final On Saturday


So close So close

Purrier and Jones II

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