On Missouri women’s cross country team, success runs in the family

Two sister duos are leaving legacies on the program.
Karissa Schweizer practices during her senior season. Her illustrious collegiate career at Missouri includes five national championships, six school records and eight All-American honors.

For Illinois-native junior Reilly Revord, the journey to Missouri started with a random connection. Her high school coach, whose wife knew head cross country coach Marc Burns, encouraged her to reach out to Missouri.

“I was like ‘alright, I’ve never heard of Mizzou before but I’ll reach out to them and send them a letter’,” said Reilly Revord. “It’s funny, I never knew Mizzou was a thing, but I’m very glad I wrote that letter. Then Coach Burns called me right away and continually kept talking to me, and when I took my visit it felt like home. I loved the people, loved the campus, and that’s pretty much how I came to love Mizzou.”

Her younger sister, McKenna Revord, didn’t initially look at Missouri either, but it only took one visit to change her mind.

“In the beginning, I was like, ‘I’m not going to go there,’ even though I’d never been there. I was just like, ‘I’m my own independent person, I’ll do my own thing,’” McKenna Revord said. “But as soon as I visited Reilly, just for fun on one weekend to hang out with her, I was like, ‘oh my gosh, this is amazing, I’ve never seen anything like this place.’ Everyone here is so nice, and I was like, ‘how is that possible?’”

The Revord sisters make up one of the two sister pairs currently listed on the roster. In recent years, three women have followed their sisters to Missouri.

Now a freshman at Missouri, McKenna Revord is on the same team as Reilly Revord for the second time in her life. Four years ago, the sisters spent two years competing at Hinsdale Central High School together.

“It was pretty awesome. I’ve been looking up to Reilly since I was a little kid, watching her to see how I could do the same,” McKenna Revord said. “It was really nice having her around because she was an upperclassman when I was a freshman so she helped show me the ropes and taught me how to be dedicated to the team. If I wanted to do good and be better for myself and for my team, I just had to do what she did.”

One memory from high school stands out for both of them.

“My freshman year, we were both on the same 4x8 relay for track, and I got to hand off the baton to Reilly, which was pretty cool,” McKenna Revord said. “That was a really fun experience, to be able to, as a family, make up half the relay.”

“I think we ended up second in state, so that was really fun,” Reilly Revord adds.

Sophomore Kelsey Schweizer from Urbandale, Iowa, is the younger sister of six-time national champion and Missouri record holder Karissa Schweizer, who graduated in 2018. The coaches at Missouri influenced Kelsey Schweizer’s decision to pick up where her older sister left off.

“I felt like the coaches here actually believed in me, versus other places where it seemed more like they were choosing me because of Karissa,” Kelsey Schweizer said. “I feel like here they had actually seen me race and knew a little more about me, so it felt more like home at Mizzou.”

The younger Schweizer has noticed the attention that comes with being related to one of Missouri’s most highly acclaimed athletes, but it serves as a source of motivation rather than pressure.

“She didn’t come to Mizzou as a six-time national champion, she came here similar to me,” Kelsey Schweizer said of her sister. “She was good in high school, but not the best in the country or anything, and I feel like knowing that made me want to come here because I knew how successful Mizzou made her.”

Kelsey Schweizer has been quick to make a name for herself. In her first indoor track season as a Tiger, she competed in the Southeastern Conference Championship as one leg of the distance medley relay, which earned all-SEC honors with a second-place finish.

The Schweizer family began their history of collegiate running long before the two sisters set foot on Missouri’s campus. Their grandfather, Frank Schweizer, became a Division Two All-American in the 1,500-meter race at Mankato State College in 1960, and their parents later met while running there.

Karissa Schweizer is the first in the family to take running beyond the college level, currently running for Bowerman Track Club in Portland, Oregon. Last summer, she traveled to Doha, Qatar to compete in the 5,000-meter race at the World Athletics Championships, where she finished ninth. One of her most recent accolades is a U.S record in the indoor 3,000-meter race.

Karissa Schweizer started running at Missouri with the same goals that Kelsey Schweizer now has for herself.

“I’d say my goal for cross country season is to stay on the traveling team and to keep taking time off of my PR,” Kelsey Schweizer said. “Overall, I’d say my long-term goal would be to make nationals in either cross country, indoor track or outdoor track and see what I can do from there.”

Kelsey Schweizer used this summer’s training to position herself for a strong cross country season, which she kicked off with a 33rd place performance at the Commodore Classic. Her time of 23:27.8, a personal best by almost three minutes, was good enough to secure her spot as seventh out of Missouri’s finishers.

“I’m definitely excited to see how I’ll do in cross country,” Kelsey Schweizer said in an interview prior to the race. “I know that I can do a lot better than I did last year just because I had such few races and I can tell I’m in a lot better shape.”

Runners say that running is only 20% physical and 80% mental. A rough race or a workout that doesn’t go as planned can take a toll on the mind and affect performance, so runners often look to each other for comfort and advice.

For Kelsey Schweizer, her two older siblings — both former D1 runners — are some of the first people she turns to.

“They’re definitely my second or third coaches and it’s nice having them because they know what I’m going through,” Kelsey Schweizer said.

Her older brother, Ryan Schweizer, ran for the University of Notre Dame and transferred to Drake University this year.

With bigger and more prolonged setbacks, runners need a strong support base. Reilly Revord, who has an All-Midwest Regional performance, has had her trajectory interrupted by a stress reaction in her hip that she is overcoming. She finds that having her sister running by her side has helped her navigate the difficulties of getting her stride back.

“That was mentally really challenging for me because I had never been injured before,” Reilly Revord said. “Physically, it took me a really long time, and I’m still working on getting back in shape — getting back to where I want to be — so it’s great to have McKenna here to push me to get better.”

The most challenging moment of McKenna Revord’s running career was the passing of their dad. Chris Revord was a former University of Kentucky runner who inspired their love of the sport.

“It was really tough to have to come back after that,” McKenna Revord said. “He taught both me and Reilly everything we know about running, and to come back from that and keep moving forward and run in his name has been a little bit tough.”

The sisters connected with their dad through running and shared many memories of the sport with him.

“He was the person who influenced us all to get out there and start running,” Reilly Revord said. “I know my mom would’ve wanted at least one of us to like swimming because she was a swimmer. Once we started running, I feel like we all were pretty solid at the beginning so we all kind of found that we were good at it and really enjoyed it on our own. But we also enjoyed the aspect that we could bond with it over our dad, too.”

What’s so special about Missouri? What about the program brings families of runners from all over the Midwest to Columbia?

For Kelsey Schweizer, the team atmosphere makes the difference.

“I feel like the team here is pretty small, but everyone is close to each other,” Kelsey Schweizer said. “It’s nice being able to make jokes before the race. I would see all these other teams and they seemed so serious, and the distance runners weren’t talking to the sprinters.”

McKenna Revord said her original impression of the team turned out to be correct.

“This was the first place that I saw, and I was like, I don’t think anything can top this,” McKenna Revord said. “And I was right. No place is better.”

With just over a month of college training completed, McKenna Revord is still adjusting to the D1 stage.

“Training has definitely been a little bit different than high school, mileage-wise and the workout intensity definitely, but it’s been so much fun so far,” McKenna Revord said. “The team has been so welcoming and they’ve just been giving me the strength to keep moving and keep pushing forward.”

Although Kelsey Schweizer is the last of the Schweizer clan to head to college, the Revord sisters have two younger brothers, both current high school runners who could potentially join their sisters at Missouri.

“Three Revords, one program,” McKenna Revord said, laughing about the possibility. “I don’t know if Mizzou can handle that many kids.”

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