Just days after winning the first women’s cross country national championship in school history, Missouri’s Karissa Schweizer returned home to Urbandale, Iowa.
Schweizer’s life, in a similar sense — after the loads of Twitter messages, calls and texts from folks like Missouri chancellor Hank Foley — had returned to normalcy, especially in the eyes of her parents.
“They were like, ‘unload the dishwasher,’ ” Schweizer recalled Monday night after being honored at halftime of Missouri’s basketball contest against North Carolina Central. “I was like, but I just won. … That didn’t matter.”
It’s been a whirlwind for the Missouri junior, who won the Southeastern Conference’s 6,000-meter race and the first NCAA Midwest Regional in a black and gold uniform since Amanda Bales in 2003.
Then came the national championship, where Schweizer relied on a kick in the final 400 meters to spark her personal-best time of 19 minutes, 41.6 seconds.
“If you’re going to win one NCAA championship, this is the one to win,” Missouri cross country coach Marc Burns said Monday. “There’s only one cross country champion, so it’s huge for the program.”
More than a week later, Burns still marvels at the speed it took to get the job done, but even more so because of the conditions.
Going into the race, Burns said he and Schweizer’s goal was for her to finish 10th. That was on Friday, the day before the race, as the weather was 67 degrees, according to Burns. Then came Saturday,and the chilly conditions that fell to nearly 39 degrees and included 25 mile per hour winds.
Schweizer said she welcomes those conditions, but down the stretch Michigan senior Erin Finn held steady in the lead. Then came the kick, one Burns knew Schweizer had in her.
“She was tucked away, shielded from the wind and shielded from the conditions and running the smartest race of anybody,” Burns said. “She looked the most comfortable, she looked at ease, she looked poised, she was in the right spot and that allowed her to have that type of explosiveness at the end.”
Now back at school after becoming the first cross country champion at Missouri since 1955, Schweizer’s back in the grind and preparing for another race.
This Sunday, at Boston University, Schweizer will run an indoor 5,000-meter race in attempt to qualify for the NCAA indoor championships.
And if she does? Twitter messages, calls and texts will again follow, but dish duty? That staple will remain, even for the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s women’s national athlete of the year as she finally earns downtime.
“The entire experience has been crazy,” Schweizer said. “It just shows how supportive the entire school has been in just wanting to recognize how cross country is doing and putting us on the map.”