Karissa Schweizer

by Jeff Hollobaugh

Schweizer Back Setting PRs

If after her 11th-place finish at the NCAA XC last fall people thought that Karissa Schweizer had lost her touch, her on-fire winter campaign has surely burned that notion out of their heads.

In three indoor races since then the Missouri senior has already sizzled to three PRs that placed her among the best collegians ever and a fourth one that makes her the very best.

Back in November, she had fought back the tears while giving post-race interviews in Louisville.

Says Mizzou coach Bret Halter, “She had her worst day that she’s had in her entire career, and only 10 people were able the beat her.”

“It was hard to end the season with that,” she admits. After taking a few days off, she asked her coaches if she could race an undercover 5000 in Boston on December 2.

“All I had to do was go out there and get a qualifier and stay relaxed and no pressure,” she explains. “That was a really exciting race for me, just getting that positive back in track.”

Schweizer came through, loping along with New Mexico’s Ednah Kurgat before exploding to the win in 15:17.31, a better mark than the PR she used to place 4th at USATF last June. It also made her the No. 9 American ever, and No. 5 among collegians.

“The time surprised me a lot especially since we are going out at a slower pace,” she recounts. “I wasn’t expecting the time to be too fast but then when the pacer stepped off, Ednah really picked up the pace.”

A couple more months of solid training later, Schweizer stood at the start of the mile at the Armory’s Sander Invitational (see p. 14).

“I never had a super-competitive mile before,” she says. “I’ve never raced professionals, really, in the indoor mile.

“So I just went into it and wanted to be competitive, knowing that the pace was going to be way faster than my PR. I knew that if I could place in the top 3, a PR would come with it.

“I didn’t really look at the time until afterwards and I said, ‘Oh my!’ ”

Top 10s for Schweizer at 4 distances – VICTOR SAILER/PHOTO

Her 4:27.54 in 3rd crushed her old best by more than 8 seconds and moved her to No. 4 ever among collegians. She also went through the 1500 in 4:10.68 to become the No. 3 collegian ever.

A week later, she returned to the Armory, hoping to break 9:00 in a solid Millrose 3000 field.

“Going into the race, having that confidence,” she explains. “The mile the week before was really good for me. There were a lot of big names in that race. I tried not to think of it that way. I just thought of it as another race: just put myself out there.”

That she did, bravely taking the lead with 800 left against the veterans before being caught.

“That definitely wasn’t the plan but I was feeling pretty good and I felt the pace start to slow down a little bit,” she says. “I knew that I wanted to try going faster than 8:45 pace.

“I knew that that move probably would cost me later on in the race but I don’t regret it. I knew that if I didn’t make that move, I probably would regret it later. I decided to go for it.”

She adds, “Once I got out there I was like, ‘What am I thinking?’ But oh well.”

Schweizer held on to finish 3rd in 8:41.60, taking the Collegiate Record away from Jenny Simpson and becoming the No. 8 American ever.

And yet she says she is not surprised by her current fitness level. “Going from cross knowing that every season has been building on itself and trusting that my fitness is where my coach says it is, no it doesn’t surprise me a lot,” she explains.

Says Halter, “I think that she and [distance coach] Marc Burns have become the consummate coach-athlete relationship, the way it ought to be. They communicate well, they have a great plan, coach Burns keeps it fun.

“She sticks with the process and stays engaged with what coach has lined up for her. It’s been fun to watch.”

Of course, on the question of the week, what will Schweizer run at NCAA Indoors, Halter quips, “I could tell you that but I would have to kill you, right? “Ultimately, it’s going to be a lot of her decision; they’re her races. We’ll do what’s right for her.”

Says Schweizer, “I wish I knew the answer. Who knows?”

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