On Friday morning, Elle Purrier-St. Pierre ran for the Olympic finals in the 1,500 meter. In the hot, humid weather Purrier-St. Pierre ran a 4:01:75 to finish 10th. Her New Balance teammate Cory McGee was 12th.
It was a sensational field with Kenyan Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon pulling away from the field to set an Olympic record of 3:53:11. Great Britain’s Laura Muir ran a personal best to finish second in 3:54:50 and world record holder Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands ran 3:55:86.
On Wednesday, in the semi-finals, Purrier-St. Pierre got a taste of the competition and had to wait 10 minutes to learn if she had qualified.
It was an excruciating 10 minutes, saved by a butterfly
It took Elle Purrier-St. Pierre 4 minutes and one second to finish the semi-final Heat 1. But that wasn’t fast enough. Five women finished ahead of her, each automatically earning a place in the finals today. Purrier-St. Pierre was in sixth. Her only hope of making the finals was that her time would be faster than the finishers in the second heat, allocating her a spot. The first heat was won in a blistering 3:56 by Kenyan Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon. Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands (and world record holder in the mile) won Heat 2 in 4:00. Elle’s time would have put her in 3rd in Heat 2. She had made it. Elle’s fastest time in the 1500 so far had been at the U..S Olympic Trials where she set a record running it in 3:58.
But in those 10 minutes as she watched the other times came in, Purrier-St. Pierre held her breath. “I gave it all out there, I put it out there and I’m really proud of myself but those ten minutes were really stressful,” Purrier-St. Pierre told NBC News. Then, the results came in. And just as they did, Purrier-St. Pierre saw the butterfly. “I saw something so beautiful but peculiarly out of place. It was a butterfly that fluttered inches away from me and then off into the stadium center, and I immediately knew it was a sign from her,” Purrier-St. Pierre wrote in on Instagram later. “Her” was her grandmother. Her father’s mother who had been like Elle, “independent and strong-willed, but also having classful taste and appreciating the details in life.” She too had been a dairy farmer who worked the farmland of Franklin County, and one who loved butterflies.