RICHFORD, Vt. – Looking around the banners hanging in the Richford Junior/Senior High School gymnasium, it’s not hard to find the name of one former athlete who seems to show up a lot – Elle Purrier.
The 24 year-old Richford graduate shattered school records for track and field, went on to become the most decorated athlete in University of New Hampshire history, and most recently placed 11th in the women’s five-kilometer race with USA Track & Field at the IAAF World Championships.
On Thursday, however, she was back in Richford where it all started, passing along tips from her time on the track to high school athletes from around the region.
“It’s really humbling and a little bit emotional, im really thankful for all the support I’ve gotten,” Purrier said. “It’s cool to see so many young runners that know who I am and follow my running and be able to talk to them and remember what it was like to be them.”
Purrier trains in Boston, but her ties to the Green Mountain State are still strong. Her parents run a dairy farm in Montgomery that’s been in the family since 1904, and her fiancé Jamie St. Pierre was once her classmate at Richford. He’s watched her hone her craft one day at a time to get where she is today.
“I think Elle’s always been really humble,” St. Pierre said. “It’s hard for her to talk about herself, so when she’s getting interviewed she doesn’t like to brag.”
Indeed, growing up in small town Vermont and elevating to the world stage of track and field comes with some increased attention.
“I think some people in the area think of her as a sort of celebrity, but she really doesn’t see herself that way,” St. Pierre said.
Her mother Annie chose a fitting word to describe Elle’s rise from a high-school athlete to Olympic hopeful – “fast.” Even in the early days, however, it was clear to her that the talent was there.
“We’d be going to races and they would have people on the sidelines saying ‘She’s not going to make it, she can’t keep up that pace’, and they wouldn’t know who we were, so we’d have a lot of fun listening to people talk about her.”
As for a potential run at participating in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo? It’s almost time to hit the starting blocks.
“I’m going to bump up my training and see what I can do,” Elle said. “I’m really excited and I think going to this world championship has helped me even more.”