Society & Culture

Elle Purrier, the Richford Rocket, going to Olympics

Elle Purrier St. Pierre crosses the finish line to win the Women’s 1500 Meters Final during day four of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field on June 21, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images, as seen on

Some 10,525 kilometres (6,540 miles) from Tokyo, Elle Purrier St. Pierre has been training on dirt roads in rural Vermont for her shot at Tokyo 2020.

On Monday night (June 21), her dream became a reality.

The 26-year-old American, who grew up on a farm near the Franklin County Canadian border town of Berkshire, won the women’s 1500m final at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for track and field in Eugene, Ore., in convincing fashion, trading in those dirt roads for Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium in the coming weeks. Her time of three minutes, 58.03 seconds bested Mary Slaney’s 33-year-old record for the Olympic Trials. Her time was the sixth-fastest 1500M this year.

She’s going to Tokyo with the aim of winning. Winning is something she’s been in the habit of doing since her days at Richford High School. As County Courier reporter Josh Kaufmann reported June 24, “St. Pierre’s first quote to a reporter, a decade ago after her only Vermont high school cross country loss, was ‘I just want to win.’ She starred for UNH and competed in the 2016 Olympic Trials in the steeplechase event.

Purrier has other Vermont roots, notably in Lamoille County. Former Hyde Park legislator Harold Bailey is her (very) proud grandfather.

“I’ve definitely thought about Tokyo on my runs with my dog in Vermont,” Purrier St. Pierre said after her victory. “Every day when I run, I’m thinking, ‘I’m doing this to make the team.’ I’ve been thinking about Tokyo for quite a few years now.”

Purrier St. Pierre topped a loaded American field which featured former world champion and Rio 2016 bronze medallist Jenny Simpson, whom Elle called a “role model… somebody I’ve looked up to for so long.”

Yet Monday night was her race, even if only 50 metres in she was nearly pushed off of the inside of the track as the runners jostled for positioning, Purrier St. Pierre having to step off the track to keep her balance and not fall.

She never looked back.

A standout race – years in the making

“Right after that happened, I realized I just really didn’t want to get pushed around or anything,” Purrier St. Pierre told reporters. “So I just took it and, pushed the pace throughout the whole thing. And I knew that people would go with me. I just tried to just be as strong as I could and lead it.”

And lead it she did – to the finish line. She finished in first with a meet record and personal best of 3:58.03. Her sometimes training mates Cory McGee and Heather MacLean were 2-3, some two seconds back.

All three will go to Tokyo.

“It’s just really surreal,” Purrier St. Pierre said of her new “Olympian” status.

“I feel like it still hasn’t set in. I’ve just been dreaming of this moment for so long and it’s really emotional. And I’m just so happy. I’m just happy that my family is here to share this with me and my teammates and everybody that’s believed in me.”

“I led most of [the race] because I believed in myself. I knew that I was strong enough to do that.”

A sort of belief that has been building in the last few years, Elle having been 11th at the 2019 world championships in the 5000m, then setting the American record in the indoor mile, a 4:16.85 in February of 2020.

She began to turn heads. But Purrier St. Pierre kept her home training base (for the most part), toiling on the dirt rounds around her family’s dairy farm near Berkshire, population of 1,689.

Tokyo 2020: ‘My goal would be to medal’

Purrier St. Pierre is clearly a runner who has always done things just her way.

“I feel like expectations kind of suck,” she said. “I’ve always hoped to make the team in the last four years. I really progressed a lot. Who wouldn’t hope to make the Olympics? But the expectations I’ve really tried to put away and just focus on proving to myself that I can do it. I think expectations ruin things. And so I still, lining up today, was not thinking that I got the job done before it was done.”

Less than four minutes later she was, however, officially an Olympian. Something her mind had no doubt drifted to on those dusty, quiet runs near home – a place she has plenty of pride in.

And those 10,000kms away – what’s the goal for Tokyo?

“My goal would be to medal,” she said. “I really think that I have a great chance at that and that would be the ultimate goal.”

Republished from June 22, with material sourced the County Courier, Elle’s Facebook page, and other Vermont sources

Categories: Society & Culture

2 replies »

  1. Great going, Elle…. All of Vermont is pulling for you, especially the Franklin County folks, which is where I grew up.. in Bakersfield.

  2. Congrats Elle – wow!! Vermont Proud! Good luck and be safe taking this journey to a win we pray!!

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