Each January, Vermont Sports Magazine publishes the profiles of 10 Vermont athletes who have made our state proud in the past year. Even with race schedules cut short, travel curtailed and being isolated from training partners, these athletes pushed through the year of Covid-19 and showed how you can stay motivated, stay fit and stay on top of the game. Here’s our annual salute to 10 athletes Vermont should be proud of. See a full list of 2020‘s 10 Athletes of the Year in alphabetical order as well as links to previous years’ honorees.
Elle’s Year of Shattered Records
The year 2020 will be remembered as the time the daughter of two dairy farmers from Northern Vermont broke one of the longest-held records in track and field: Olympic gold medalist Mary Decker Slaney’s American record for running an indoor mile.
As a student at Richford High School, Elle broke pretty much every high school running record in Vermont. At University of New Hampshire, she became the school’s most decorated athlete of all time. After she graduated, she signed with New Balance in 2018 and has since been spinning heads.
Elle put the world on notice when, in the fall of 2019 she ran neck and neck with her New Balance teammate Jenny Simpson across the finish of New York’s Fifth Avenue Mile race – both women breaking previous records. Simpson, the eight-time winner, crossed in 14:16:1. Elle, a relative unknown, had a time of 14:16:2.
On Feb. 8, 2020, at the Millrose Games in New York, she sprinted the final 200 yards on the indoor track to post a new American record of 4:16:85, taking four seconds off Decker’s 37-year record. It is the second-fastest indoor mile in history: In 2016 Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia set the world record, 4:13.31. Elle is a strong candidate for a medal (or two) at the 2020 Olympics, but the question is in what?
While most competitions were canceled this past summer, Elle and her teammates made it to Hartford Ct. for a sparsely-attended meet called “Track is Back.” There, on an outdoor track at Hall High School, she ran the 800 in 2:00:70. It was the fifth fastest time on an outdoor track that’s ever been recorded, worldwide.
“It reminds me of a high school meet because it is so small,” Elle told The Hartford Courant after the race. “It’s kind of weird to think right now if I made the [U.S.] team, I’d be in Tokyo,” Elle said. “It’s still kind of weird to think about — what if?”
Though she claims that at heart she’s a miler, Elle also enjoys the 5k and qualified for the 5000 meter at the 2019 World Championships, where she finished 15th. In August, running on the Wellesley, Mass., high school track she ran 1500 meters in 4:00.77.
The new track and field Olympic team trials are scheduled to take place in Eugene, Oregon June 18-21. Elle has not said what events she plans to run.
Instead of racing, Elle spent much of the year milking cows, scraping the barn stalls and helping her folks handle what would be their final year as dairy farmers in Franklin County. In late December, Elle shared a video of a truck snaking down a dirt road along with a heart-wrenching post saying her family had sold off their dairy herd. “The things that matter and are real in the dairy industry don’t make the media. Things like the look on my dad’s face after the cows left and he was standing in a near-empty barn,” she wrote.
However, she also noted an upside: in 2020 she also married her high-school sweetheart and neighboring dairy farmer Jamie St. Pierre so Elle will have a second job as a Vermont dairy farmer for a while longer.
See a full list of 2020‘s 10 Athletes of the Year in alphabetical order as well as links to previous years’ honorees.