In 2014, she led her team to victory in the America East cross country championship with a 5K first-place finish of 17:19, the same year she won the USA Junior National Championships in the 3000 meter steeplechase. In 2015, she prevailed in both the 1500 and 3000 meter races at the America East outdoor track championships and went on to the NCAA Division I finals; this February, she set a nation-best NCAA time in the mile, breaking the tape in a scorching 4 minutes, 29.71 seconds.
If you’re starting to think there’s nothing Elinor Purrier ’17 can’t do, you might be on to something. Last Friday, April 15, the nutrition major, dean’s list regular and indoor/outdoor Academic All American qualified for the Olympic trials in the steeplechase with school-record-setting first place finish at Providence College’s Ocean State Invitational.
UNH track and field coach Rob Hoppler describes Purrier as “unique.” A three-year captain of her high school basketball team (see above: “nothing Elinor Purrier ’17 can’t do”), “Elle has really good feet and really good strength,” Hoppler explains. At least in part because of her basketball background, “she’s really got an incredible combination of athleticism and toughness.”
Much of that toughness comes from Purrier’s background: She grew up on a dairy farm in hilly far northern Vermont and fit her high school workouts in with daily chores that included feeding and helping milk her family’s 60 head of cattle and tossing 40-pound hay bales — chores she still picks up without a hitch when she returns home to Montgomery in the summers. “She’s someone who knows what hard work is,” Hoppler says.
Over March break, Purrier’s hard work took her to the NCAA indoor track championships in Birmingham, Alabama, where she finished third in the mile. This spring, she’s turned her attention to the steeplechase, an endurance event that combines a run of almost two miles with 28 hurdles, seven of which drop into a 12-foot-long water jump. She placed eighth in the world junior steeplechase championships two summers ago, just months after she started training for the event using makeshift hay bale hurdles at home. Now, she has the Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon, in her crosshairs for July.
For all her accomplishments and their attendant pressures, Purrier is remarkably even keeled. She says she tries not to think too far into the future or place particular expectations on herself. “I like to set my own pace,” she says. “Hearing the sound of footsteps behind me keeps me motivated.” That’s a good thing; at the rate she’s going, the only footsteps she’s going to hear will continue to be behind her.
Originally published in UNH Magazine Spring 2016 Issue
Athletic prowess, yes, she has it. But Elinor Purrier is no slouch in the classroom. In 2015, she was one of five UNH students to receive the coveted Gilman International Scholarship for study abroad.