The last time Karissa Schweizer had to qualify for an international event, she had some help.
Schweizer, the former MU runner who had a program-high six national titles in her collegiate career, ran alongside Bowerman Track Club teammate and mentor Shelby Houlihan before she finished second behind Houlihan at the 2019 USATF National Championships.
The two embraced on the blue oval at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, after both qualified for the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar.
“Even in high school and college, I definitely looked up to (Houlihan) and she has really helped me just with that learning curve, what to expect and with racing at a world level,” Schweizer told the Missourian in September 2019.
Schweizer and Houlihan are both from Iowa and have trained over the past couple of years to repeat that result and qualify for the Olympics this summer in Tokyo, but a late twist means Schweizer won’t be with the runner with whom she’s spent her whole professional career at this weekend’s trials in Eugene, Oregon.
Tuesday, Houlihan was handed a PED suspension for four years, one Houlihan claims she got from pork in a burrito.
Without Houlihan, the American record holder in the 5,000-meter run, Schweizer will be a clear favorite to be one of the two American qualifiers in the women’s 5K. Her seed time of 14 minutes, 26 seconds is more than 20 seconds faster than any of her competitors.
An olympic qualification would be the next step in Schweizer’s budding professional career. In February 2020, she broke the American record for the 3,000-meter run and finished ninth in the 5,000-meter run at the 2019 World Championships in Doha.
Schweizer will also try to qualify for the 10,000-meter run, where she has a decent shot as well. Her Bowerman teammate Elise Cranny has the top-seed time of 30:47.42, but Schweizer is just behind her with a time of 30:47.99. Emily Sisson is the only other runner with a time under 31 minutes and will be the biggest threat at taking a top-two spot from Schweizer or Cranny.
Other former Tigers competing at the trials are two-time Southeastern Conference discus champion and two-time All-American Gabi Jacobs, and throwers Avery Carter and Jordan McClendon. Jacobs is seeded seventh while the other two have an uphill battle to qualification outside of the top 10 coming into the meet.
Carter is third in program history in the hammer throw while McClendon earned second team All-SEC honors in the 2020 indoor season.
Current Missouri track and field athletes are led by Skylar Ciccolini.
Ciccolini had a breakout spring after the COVID-19 pandemic ended any hope of a 2019-20 season. She redshirted during indoor competition.
She set the school record in the women’s javelin before ending her debut season with All-American honors after a ninth-place finish June 11 in Eugene, Oregon.
Ciccolini will return to Eugene looking for an Olympic berth with current Missouri athletes Mitch Weber and Ariana Fisher. Fisher holds the school records for the indoor and outdoor triple jump, while Weber finished second in the SEC Championships as a redshirt freshman and earned SEC Co-Newcomer of the Year honors this spring before competing in the NCAA Championships.
Since only the top two in each event qualify for Tokyo, the current MU athletes will have a tough road for qualification competing against the country’s top professionals. Ciccolini is seeded eighth while the others are all outside the top 10.
Schweizer, Carter, Jacobs and Fisher each have qualification events Friday. Carter starts with the men’s hammer throw at 2:05 p.m. before Jacobs has the women’s discus at 4 p.m. Schweizer follows with heats of the women’s 5,000-meter run at 7:54 p.m. before Fisher closes the day with prelims at 8:15 p.m. All events are at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.