RICHFORD - Sunday, August 1, Richford Junior-Senior High School will host a community-wide watch party for Elle Purrier St. Pierre as she races in the first heat of the 1500m at the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The watch party will take place in the RJSHS gymnasium. High above the heads of the viewers, Purrier St. Pierre's Gatorade banners will be fluttering, and on the walls, her state title banners will be a reminder of her outstanding high school running career.
RJSHS principal Beth O'Brien was Purrier St. Pierre's teacher in Montgomery in the primary grades and her principal at Montgomery during her elementary and middle school years.
"The first time I saw her run at the state meet at Thetford--I wasn't prepared for the emotion. I started crying; I cry every time I see her run. It does something to me," said O'Brien.
"Elle wasn't a runner before she came to Richford. Richard Flint saw her and encouraged her to run. From track, she went to cross country, and that's where it all started."
Purrier St. Pierre's success drew attention from larger schools, but the Montgomery native remained loyal to her local community.
"Some of the bigger schools tried to recruit her after she started having success, and she said she was happy where she was. She graduated from a D3/4 school and got a full scholarship to UNH," said O'Brien.
"It doesn't matter where you come from, but rather what you do with the opportunities that come your way--working hard, implementing feedback that's given--those are the ingredients of success."
O'Brien, whose family has been friends with the Purrier's for years, was instrumental in launching the Elle watch parties at the school where Purrier St. Pierre's sister Jenny is a special educator and her mom Annie is a paraeducator educator.
"When Elle raced in the World Championships in Doha, we did a unit on Doha and initiated a watch party then; we've been doing it for a while now," said O'Brien.
This weekend's watch party is open to the public, and O'Brien hopes to see a big crowd!
"It's exciting for people to be here and watch the race together! Her family had the opportunity to travel to Florida to watch with the other families of New Balance athletes, but they chose to be here with family and friends. That speaks to how much the support of the community in Richford, Franklin County, and Vermont has meant to them!" said O'Brien.
Sunday's race is the first heat in the women's 1500m, and O'Brien and RJSHS will host parties for each of the races.
"The second one is at 6 am on Wednesday morning, so we'll all be up early," said O'Brien.
Purrier St. Pierre's medals, her shoes from high school, photographs, and articles will all be on display for people to enjoy at the party.