Schweizer impresses in debut season

Cross-country runner Karissa Schweizer is SEC Freshman of the Year, and one of the team’s most important contributors throughout the fall.

For the second consecutive year, the SEC Freshman of the Year is another dynamic Missouri cross-country runner.

Karissa Schweizer won the award on Nov. 11, about two weeks after the SEC Championship Meet. There, Schweizer finished 17th overall, but was the top woman freshman to cross the line, earning a spot on the SEC All-Freshman Team. She will also be the only Mizzou runner this season to compete in the NCAA championship race on Saturday, Nov. 22.

Schweizer’s accolade comes after Kaitlyn Fischer won the same title last year.

“It’s become a pretty big deal here because we’ve won the award quite a bit here over the last three or four years,” Missouri coach Marc Burns said. “It’s kind of become something where it’s exciting for our freshmen to aspire to win that award.”

This fall, Fischer and Schweizer train and work together every day. Fischer said Schweizer is the best workout partner she has ever had.

“She has so much speed that I don’t have, and we can feed off of each other,” Fischer said of Schweizer. “She’s always enjoyable to run with, (and) she’s just a great person.”

Entering her first season, Schweizer had high ambitions.

“I wanted to be in the top five for the team every race, and I was just hoping, like long-term goals, to go to Nationals and go as a team, so hopefully we can do that next year,” she said.

She said she wanted to finish top-five for the Tigers in every race she competed in. She also wanted to go the NCAA national championship races.

And she has surpassed her expectations. Schweizer finished second for the Tigers in five of seven meets and was a top-three runner for the team in every race this season. She qualified for the national championship race as well.

After a notable high school career that made her a prized recruit for Missouri, Burns said, Schweizer’s blossoming isn’t much of a surprise.

Burn, who is in his first season as head coach at Missouri, said he recruited Schweizer when he coached at Bradley University.

“What I found in her is a very team-oriented girl who is obviously very talented and having a very good season running-wise, but she really fits in well with the team,” Burns said.

Schweizer said she worried coming into her freshman season.

“I was a little nervous and not being, like, (the team’s) No. 1 runner, but I didn’t want to go to a program (that was inferior),” Schweizer said. “I wanted to go into a strong program, and with how our programming is developing, I’m really excited.”

Willing to challenge herself, Schweizer’s contributions have been a critical part of her team’s success.

Her most impressive feat this fall came on Friday, Nov. 14, at the NCAA Midwestern Regional race. Schweizer placed seventh overall in the meet, making her the only runner from either of Mizzou’s teams to earn a spot in the NCAA Championship meet on November 22.

For a majority of the race, Schweizer placed herself in the lead pack of runners. According to Burns, normally it is Fischer up front with Schweizer keying off of Fischer. Friday was different.

“(I) just kind of figured I didn’t have anything to lose, so I was just going to try,” Schweizer said. “And it ended up working out.”

Last year, Fischer was in the same position as Schweizer. Fischer finished No. 79 as the sole Mizzou runner in the national championship race according.

Even though it is Schweizer's first-ever national championship, she said she planned to prepare just as she has for every race this season.

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