When Ellie Purrier lines up to begin the mile at the NCAA Championships in Birmingham, Alabama in March, she’ll be standing next to runners from Oklahoma State, Oregon, Utah and Penn State.
While you won’t often see the University of New Hampshire squaring off against such big name schools, for Purrier, it’s nothing new. Only two years into her NCAA eligibility, Purrier already has a career résumé that most runners can only dream of.
As a freshman, Purrier placed 15th in the nation in the mile, good for All-America Second Team honors. She redshirted her freshman outdoor season, before winning the U.S. Junior National Championship in the steeplechase, before placing ninth at the World Junior Championships. As a sophomore, she won All-Region honors and won the America East crown, redshirted her indoor season, and then earned her second All-America honors—this time First Team, for a seventh place finish in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
“I think when she stepped on campus as a freshman, if I would have said to her, ‘you’re going to be a two-time All-American, junior national champion,’ she would have been pretty excited about that,” Hoppler said.
Three years later, Purrier is the sixth ranked NCAA Women’s Division I mile runner in the indoor track and field season, registering a 4-minute, 37.54-second mark at last weekend’s John Thomas Terrier Classic at Boston University. It’s the first time she’s run the mile since she was a freshman, when she set the school record of 4:36.14.
“I’ve been doing different races, trying to focus on the mile,” Purrier said. “The 3,000 to help me work on my strength, and then the 1,000 was for speed, but those were kind of training pieces.”
In the process of training, Purrier broke two more school records over the winter break. She first conquered Keeley Maguire’s 2013 record by recording a 9:29.29 in the 3,000-meter run on Dec. 12. Just over a month later, in a dual meet with Holy Cross, she shattered Allison Letourneau’s 2012 record with a 2:46.02 performance, which was the nation’s second fastest race at the time.
In total, Purrier holds five individual school records—she also has the 1,500-meter and 3,000-meter steeplechase records, recorded in the outdoor season—and is part of the distance medley relay record, which she help set as a freshman.
While the records she’s collected training for the mile are great, they haven’t distracted Purrier from her focus of improving on her mile time in preparation for the NCAA meet.
“It’s always been one of my favorite races,” she said. “It’s something I’m comfortable with and confident in. I think that I can do the best in that event.”
“She’s a very talented young woman,” Hoppler said, emphasizing Purrier’s off the track accomplishments. In addition to being an All-American, the junior nutrition major is a three-time Academic All-American, who expertly balances athletics, academics and family.
She is also one of a number of student-athletes that have helped to grow the UNH track and field program, which has seen a boom of success in recent years. Last year, Purrier was one of four All-Americans, along with then-senior Anne Twombly, senior Rosie Donegan, and then-senior John Prizzi.
This season, Purrier is joined in the national rankings by three teammates—Donegan is ranked 13th in the 5,000-meter run, and on the men’s side, Drew Piazza’s recent school-record breaking 800-meter time ranks fourth nationally, while Mike Shanahan is tied for 18th in the weight throw.
“”We’ve been very fortunate to get some remarkable talent,” Hoppler said. “I guess the interesting thing about that talent is that most of it is very local.”
Other than Donegan—who calls Australia home—the other elite Wildcats all hail from New England, including Purrier, who hails from Montgomery, Vermont.
Purrier was a decorated high school runner in her home state, taking home a number of outdoor track and field championships in the 400-meter, 800-meter, 1,500-meter and 3,000-meter races, as well as a Vermont, New England and Northeast Region winner in cross-country, placing 17th at the high school national meet as a senior.
But Purrier was not a three-season runner, playing basketball during the winter months, earning accolades for her defensive prowess. As a result, she flew under the radar of the bigger schools that she now competes against, and she landed at UNH.
“I think if the big schools knew what she had, they would have been all over her. But she was busy running around playing basketball,” Hoppler said with a laugh.
Now that she’s here, Purrier is proving that, with hard work and dedication, even the smaller schools can compete at an elite level, and she still has two years to put UNH track and field on the map.

Executive Editor