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U.S. mile record-setter Purrier has come along way since previous ABQ visit

U.S. athletes Elle Purrier, left, and Ajeè Wilson laugh as they answer questions during a news conference Thursday. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Before this week, the last time Elle (pronounced ell-lee) Purrier was in Albuquerque for an indoor meet she was a University of New Hampshire freshman competing in her first NCAA Championship.

She didn’t qualify for the final heat in the mile (1,500-meter race) and finished second to last in that 2014 race.

Safe to say, things have changed since then.

Purrier is now in the Duke City for the Toyota USA Track & Field Indoor Championships as the American record holder in the mile (4 minutes, 16.85 seconds), set Saturday at the Millrose Games in New York, where her blazing time was the second-fastest indoor mile ever.

“It’s kind of cool to think back to then because I feel like I’ve really come full circle,” said Purrier, 24, who will be competing in the 3,000 meters Friday at 8:28 p.m. and the mile Saturday at 2:40 p.m. at the Albuquerque Convention Center. “That was my first time ever running at (high) altitude. I didn’t make the final but I remember that was the first time meeting the people I’m still racing today. … I’m looking for a better result this weekend.”

Purrier said she doesn’t expect to lower her record on Saturday because of the high altitude. But then again, she wasn’t expecting to break the U.S. record at the Millrose Games.

She was asked at a press conference for the U.S. indoor meet on Thursday at the Hyatt Regency if she feels that she can go faster than the 4:16.85.

“Honestly, I’m surprised that I ran that fast,” she said with a laugh.

Since breaking the American women’s indoor record, formerly set in 1982 by Mary Tabb in 4:20.50, Purrier has watched replays of last week’s race a couple times. She said she stuck to the race plan, running behind Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen early on, and later unleashing her ultimate kick in the last lap.

“The race went a little bit faster than I was expecting, so I got in about third or fourth place,” Purrier said. “I knew who was in front of me (Canada’s Gabriela Debues-Stafford and England’s Jemma Reekie) and I just knew they are extremely fast women. I was hanging on to that (pace) and then I was kicking as hard as I could.”

At the press conference, Purrier sat with fellow U.S. athletes Bryce Hoppel (2019 World Championships finalist in the men’s 800 meters), Ajeè Wilson (indoor and outdoor American record holder in the women’s 800), David Haugh (2019 NCAA champion in the weight throw) and Michelle Carter, the 2016 Rio Olympics gold medalist in the shot put.

Carter, the first U.S. female gold medalist in the shot put when she broke her American record with a winning toss of 67 feet, 8¼ inches, said she has fond memories of Albuquerque.

“One of my favorite memories was getting to go on a hot air balloon ride,” said Carter, 34, who has been to Albuquerque Convention Center for several indoor meets. “I do enjoy the atmosphere (in Albuquerque). It’s always nice and calm.”

Carter said winning the gold medal, in her third Olympic Games, changed her life and made her realize that she could inspire others. She said she endured several injuries and battled through adversity during her journey to winning gold.

“It was all worth it,” said Carter, the daughter of Michael Carter, who played for the San Francisco 49ers (1984-1992), winning three Super Bowls, and who won the silver medal in the shot put at the 1984 Olympic Games.

“We shouldn’t give up on ourselves too easily.”

She said her goal now is to go to the Tokyo Olympics and win gold again.

Carter, and the other athletes, expressed excitement for this weekend’s indoor meet and making the transition to outdoor competition before preparing or qualifying for the Olympics.

(For the U.S. Track and Field website information on the meet, click here.)

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