The Maneater

Karissa Schweizer proud to represent Missouri as NCAA Champion

Schweizer: “I couldn’t believe it happened; it was a dream.”

Junior cross-country runner Karissa Schweizer is honored at the Missouri basketball game on Nov. 28 in Columbia. Schweizer won the NCAA cross-country championship.

The last few weeks, life has been nothing but a whirlwind for Karissa Schweizer.

The junior won the NCAA championship on Nov. 19 in Terre Haute, Indiana, for the first women’s championship in Missouri cross-country program history.

“It’s been crazy, but it just shows how supportive the whole school has been in wanting to recognize how cross-country has been doing,” Schweizer said.

Schweizer, who won five out of the six races she ran in for the Tigers this season, won her championship in dramatic fashion. In the final 400 meters of the 6K race, she waited back and kept pace while watching Michigan senior Erin Finn take a late lead. Then, Schweizer made her own move, blowing past Finn in the final 100 meters to finish in 19:41 and shocking the heavily favored Finn and the rest of the cross-country world.

Even Schweizer said she was surprised how much she had left in her tank.

“I knew I had a kick in me and another gear, and I knew I could catch some of [the leaders], but I didn’t know it was going to be all of them,” Schweizer said. “I didn’t even see the time when I crossed the finish line; I just said, ‘Someone pinch me.’”

The conditions on championship day were not exactly optimal for running. At race time, the temperature was 39 degrees, with 25 mile per hour winds coming from the northwest. Schweizer, however, was able to use these conditions to her advantage, much to the delight of her head coach, Marc Burns.

“She stayed right in there and battled,” Burns said. “If you go online and watch the race, you can just see it unfolding right into her hands because she looked the most comfortable, the most at ease [and] the most poised. She was in the right spot and shielded from the conditions.”

Like her coach, Schweizer said she thought the cold air and heavy winds would slow down the pace of the race. But Erin Finn and Notre Dame sophomore Anna Rohrer came out with a blistering pace, and Schweizer decided to hang back and wait to make her move.

“I definitely favor those conditions because I know that anything can happen in them and they can mess up heavy favorites,” she said. “I went out fast, stuck in there and just dealt with the circumstances.”

Since her championship win, Schweizer has been honored at a men’s basketball game and a wrestling match in Jesse Auditorium, gotten a text from Chancellor Hank Foley and received countless notes of congratulations via texts and tweets from people all over the country. But when it came time for the Thanksgiving holiday, nothing was different for her at home.

“My parents [haven’t changed how they treat me],” she said. “They asked me to unload the dishwasher. I was like, ‘But I just won.’ But they said it doesn’t matter.”

Burns said in addition to the team finishing 16th at the NCAA Championships, Schweizer’s win has helped put Missouri’s cross-country program on the map.

“If you’re going to win one NCAA championship, this is the one you want to win,” he said. “In track, there’s 21 championships on both the men’s and women’s side, but there’s only one cross-country championship. It’s huge for the program.”

Burns said Schweizer’s ultimate goals do not revolve around her own individual performances but rather how her team does as a whole.

“She knows it’s a team effort, and she’s more excited about being there with her teammates than being there as an individual,” Burns said. “I think that meant more to her than anything. [Her being able to help] her team finish 16th in the country is pretty amazing.”

Schweizer will run again on Thursday at Boston University at an indoor 5K event to try and earn a time to qualify her for the NCAA indoor track championships in March. She will then take a well-earned week off before starting up her track season in full force.

For now, however, Schweizer is still trying to take in all of the support she has received.

“It’s been really nice,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it happened; it was a dream.”

Edited by Peter Baugh | pbaugh@themaneater.com

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