University of Missouri

Two-time national champ Karissa Schweizer eager to continue dominance during outdoor season for MU

Karissa Schweizer won the women’s NCAA Division I cross country championship in Terre Haute, Ind., in November.
Karissa Schweizer won the women’s NCAA Division I cross country championship in Terre Haute, Ind., in November. The Associated Press

For eight days, distance runner Karissa Schweizer was tied with the most individual national championships in Missouri history.

Schweizer, a junior who won the NCAA cross country title in November, added the 5,000-meter crown to her resume March 10 during the NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships at College Station, Texas.

Of course, barely a week later, J’den Cox took down the third 197-pound national title in his illustrious career during the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship in St. Louis.

Fortunately for Schweizer, she’s used to running people down and zooming past in the homestretch.

“Congrats to J’den,” Schweizer said with a laugh when the quirky circumstance was brought to her attention, “but definitely … I’m glad I have a whole other year and hopefully can keep putting myself in that opportunity.”

Schweizer, who finished second in the 3,000 meters March 11 at indoor nationals, took a few well-deserved weeks off after winning her second national championship in four months.

“It’s unbelievable to me, and I’m still trying to process it,” she said. “Cross country was overwhelming, and before I’m even done processing that one, I win indoor nationals. It’s definitely an exciting experience, and I’m just glad I’m at this level.”

She’s also not done.

Schweizer was set to return to the track on Friday, making her outdoor-season debut in the 5,000 meters during a late-night race at the Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto, Calif.

It will be an early-season test of who the title contenders are for the NCAA outdoor championships on June 8-10 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

Schweizer is hoping for a strong finishing kick to her breakout junior season similar to the incredible finishing kick she’s displayed in winning her two national titles.

After all, she wasn’t always known for late-race dominance.

“I definitely have developed it more here along with my form,” Schweizer said. “In high school, I always kind of struggled with the end of the races being completely out of gas and not even able to finish strong like I have now. I’ve definitely worked on relaxing in the beginning of the race and gearing up for that last bit.”

She credits cross country coach/assistant track coach Marc Burns’ development philosophy for instilling a finishing kick that allowed her to blow past Michigan’s Erin Finn and Notre Dame’s Anna Rohrer down the stretch at both the cross country and indoor championships.

“As freshman and sophomores when they come in, we kind of keep them down below their ideal race distance to work on the change of rhythm, change of speed and give them the tools to be able to win championships like she just did,” Burns said.

He also has his distance runners work on sprinter drills and speed drills once a week.

It’s not Schweizer’s favorite workout, but she’s pleased with the fruits of that labor.

“Everything has kind of contributed to that kick that she’s known for now,” Burns said.

And it’s quite a sight to behold.

Burns wasn’t able to watch Schweizer’s breathtaking finish at cross-country nationals, because he was prodding on fellow Tigers farther back in the pack, but he had a front-row seat as she blazed to the indoor title.

“Perfect race and perfectly executed by Karissa,” Burns said. “... We knew when she hit the gas what she was capable of doing. We knew she was going to bury those two when she went. We were fired up.”

Schweizer’s time — 15 minutes, 19.14 seconds — ranks as the fifth-fastest 5,000-meter run in collegiate history.

“I definitely surprised myself,” Schweizer said. “It’s crazy, because I’ve always looked up to those girls that had those collegiate times. To tell me when I was younger that I would have the fifth-fastest collegiate time, I probably would not have believed that.”

Now, she’s made believers coast-to-coast and hopes to remain the “Queen of the 5K” during outdoor season.

Tod Palmer: 816-234-4389, @todpalmer