Elle Purrier St. Pierre was the favorite coming into the 1500 meter finals at the 2021 Olympic Trials and on Monday at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, she didn’t disappoint. Leading wire-to-wire, she finished first to make her first U.S. Olympic team in an Olympic Trials record, 3:58.03.
“I feel like it hasn’t set in. I’ve just been dreaming of this moment for so long,” Purrier said. “It’s really emotional and I’m just so happy.”
Cory McGee, 28, was second in 4:00.67 and Heather MacLean, 25, was third in 4:02.09. All three women posted personal records and all are first-time Olympians.
“I told myself when I arrived this week that no matter what happens, whether I made this team or not, my love for running wouldn’t change. It wouldn’t make me love running more or less,” McGee said. “I love to run. I always have and, really, to make teams and see it pay off in results, my deep love for what I do, is really special, but patience and resilience and all of those things are because I love to run.”
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Purrier St. Pierre, 26, said she led most of the race because she believed she was strong enough and she wanted it to go fast, instead of relying on a sit-and-kick approach. Early in the race, the pack also jostled for position and knocked Purrier St. Pierre off the track momentarily.
“I don’t know what happened,” she said. “I think when the girls cut in there was a collision somewhere that kind of just shoved me off. I just jumped back on the track as fast as I could and tried to not let it bother me…I wanted to get out of the mess and go to the front.”
Purrier St. Pierre trains with the New Balance Boston team under coach Mark Coogan, along with MacLean, who got her spot in the final after finishing sixth in the semifinal, then filing a protest for incidental contact. Officials ruled it was no fault of her own and she advanced to the final.
“I know there was a gap opening up at 800 meters or so and I kept telling myself, ‘believe in yourself, believe in yourself, believe in yourself, give it everything you’ve got, run to the finish line’” MacLean said. “And that’s exactly what I did.”
McGee, who trains with the Joe Bosshard-led group in Boulder, Colorado, hasn’t made a U.S. team since 2013, when she qualified for the world championships 1500 meters.
“It’s one thing for you to believe in yourself; it’s a whole other thing when you start putting the work and everything together in races that matter,” McGee said, crediting her coach and her training partners, who include Dani Jones who placed ninth on Monday.
Purrier St. Pierre said her plan was never to lead the entire race, but take it in the second lap. The pace was slower than she wanted to run and picking it up probably also helped MacLean get the Olympic qualifying time she also needed to make the team (4:02.20).
“Seeing her up there today I knew I wanted to be on that team with her. We’ve been talking about this for months and months and months,” MacLean said. “We just wanted to make it happen. And it happened.”
Editor’s Note: This story is part of our 2021 U.S.A. Track & Field Olympic Trials coverage. You can find all of our stories here.