RUTHIE LAROCHE – MESSENGER SPORTS
MONTGOMERY—Elle Purrier has spent the last three months running the best times of her life. She’s set personal records in the 800, 1500, and the 5,000-meters. On Sept. 7, she put the pressure on Jenny Simpson, an American Olympian, in the 5th Avenue Mile.
The two women raced to the finish line, Purrier just a fraction of a second behind Simpson. Both ladies broke the previous course record of 14:16.6, set in 1990, with Simpson finishing at 14:6.1 and Purrier at 14:6.2.
In a photo, snapped at the finish line, Simpson can be seen breaking the ribbon; Purrier directly on her heels in one of America’s most prestigioius races. It’s a photo that brings a sense of pride and awe to many in Franklin County.
The two women raced to the finish line, Purrier just a fraction of a second behind Simpson. Both ladies broke the previous course record of 4:16.6, with Simpson finishing at 4:16.1 and Purrier at 4:16.2.
In a photo, snapped at the finish line, Simpson can be seen breaking the ribbon; Purrier directly on her heels. It’s a photo that brings a sense of pride and awe to many in Franklin County.
Purrier grew up in Montgomery, right near the Canadian border and spent her early life working on her family’s dairy farm.
Long before she hit the Olympic Standard – the minimum race time needed to qualify for the Olympic team — she was milking cows, caring for pigs, and throwing bales.
In the spring of her senior year in high school, she won multiple state titles in track and field, with a17th place finish at the Nike Cross Nationals.
Her high school career earned Purrier a spot on the cross country team at the University of New Hampshire.
Once in college, Purrier was carefully groomed by her coaches. In her junior year, she was seventh at the NCAA cross country championships. Her senior year she won the NCAA title for the indoor mile.
In the spring of 2018, Purrier joined Mark Coogan, coach of the New Balance Boston team, where she now runs 70 miles a week. She also spends time working out and building her strength.
Coogan has expressed his pleasure with Purrier, noting she never shirks a workout and embraces the intensity of the work that must be put in to compete at the next level.
All that training and pushing paid big dividends this year, not just in the 5th Avenue Mile, but in numerous races throughout the season, including meeting the Olympic Standard twice.
The outdoor season began in May for Purrier and will continue through October. The first round of the 5,000 will take place Oct. 2.
Purrier plans on being present for the 5,000-meter final in Doha, and she’d like to leave her mark on the running world once again.
No matter how far she travels or how fast she runs, there are plenty of folks in Vermont who are cheering her along on her journey.
Her former coach, Richard Flint, is one of those people. When he’s asked about Elle, he can’t help but smile.
“I always told my wife that it would be my dream to sit down in front of the TV and say, ‘I coached that kid!’ On Sunday we watched her run the 5th Avenue Mile!” said Richard.
Flint has great confidence in Purrier.
“She’s unbelievable and she has so much endurance. She can do things that others can’t. She’s an athlete–strong and determined and she’s got a lot of guts.”
Flint recalled the first time he noticed Purrier’s prowess.
“It all started when she was a freshman and I was coaching JV basketball in Richford,” said Flint. “I was helping the varsity coach, and I watched Elle at games. She had great speed and good movement, and when she came off the court she wasn’t winded. I said to myself that I had to get her out for track.”
After basketball playoffs, Flint asked Purrier if she’d run track. She said she’d give it a try.
“We started running that Monday and ran for a week after school. We started with a couple of miles, and she kept coming back,” said Flint.
Flint recalled his daughter Megan, an exchange student, and Purrier taking a six-mile run one afternoon.
“We got to the three-mile mark, and the exchange student told me ‘those girls are crazy! They fight to see who’s in the lead.'”
Much to Flint’s delight, Purrier went out for track.
“Her first meet Elle was signed up for the shot put, and I wanted her to do the 3,000, which she did,” said Flint. “After the second lap, my daughter, who was racing with Elle knew that she was going to have to settle for second.”
In the fall of her sophomore year, Elle went out for cross country at Richford High School and ran for coach Andrew Hathaway. Purrier kept on winning at the state and New England levels.
“It was one thing after another,” said Flint, fondly.
The next year, Flint watched Purrier gain momentum, winning states and attending New Englands in Rhode Island.
“It was exciting then,” said Flint. “A lot of the big schools at New Englands didn’t know Elle Purrier or even where Richford was.”
In her senior year, Purrier won the state meet and won New England’s once again.
“Some people were upset because she was competing in DIII, but she had to be in that race because of the school she attended,” explained Flint. “She had no competition.”
While she was winning, Purrier was also working on the farm.
“One Saturday morning we had track practice at 7 a.m. Elle told me she couldn’t go at that time because she had chores,” said Richard, “so I went and milked cows with her. She told me I was the only coach that had milked cows with her!”
Flint has many stories of his time coaching Purrier, a kid who always had a great attitude.
“When she first started running here I followed in her truck since I couldn’t keep up. We were on the Corliss Road, and I got pulled over by the police,” said Flint, laughing once again.
“Someone had called the police because they thought I was stalking her. She laughed at me when she ran by me and kept right on running.”
Purrier may have reached heights in running that many never dream of, but Flint noted that she’s quick to give back to the communities that helped her on her way.
Last fall, Purrier accepted an invitation to come and speak to runners from MVU and Richford High School.
“Those kids gave her their full attention. Elle answered questions, signed autographs, and took photos with them for two hours.”
Last December, Purrier donated new running shoes to runners at Richford High School.
“The kids were pretty excited about that,” said Flint.
“I went to Saco, Maine, when Elle was a senior. There were two girls who fed off her for two laps in the race. Elle looked like she had burned out. With half a lap to go something came over her and she took off,” said Flint.
“She passed one girl on the corner. People were standing and watching. Elle missed the win by a tenth of a second. She might have looked like she was tired, but she had that extra kick at the end.”
Flint, who’s known Purrier since she and his daughters were showing cows together as girls, is grateful for the opportunity he’s had to be part of her life.
“I never thought I’d get to coach her and see her take the routes she has taken,” said Flint, “She’s just that kind of girl. You holler ‘push!’ and she will give you all she’s got!”