Nicola Ader: From a small town in Germany to becoming a UNR track and field star and Community Hero

Ryan Daley and Noah Lopez report on a student athlete who has shone bright from the classroom to competitions and helping neighbors in need.

Nicola Ader practicing before the first indoor meet of the season. Photo credits: Ryan Daley

Getting Closer To an Olympic Dream

Multiple school record holder and five-time All-American. Not a lot of people can say that they’ve achieved these accomplishments. At the University of Nevada, Reno, that’s what people associate with when they hear the name Nicola Ader.

The 22-year-old senior from the small populated town of Affolterbach, Germany, decided to come to Reno, Nevada at the age of 17. This decision to move to a completely different country would be hard for some people, but for the star track athlete, this choice was easier than expected.

“I decided to come to the United States because it offers a great opportunity to combine both academics and athletics,” Ader explained. “This is very difficult to do in Germany since there is a really good educational standard and college students simply have no time for performing in athletics on a high level while being enrolled as a full-time student.”

Ever since Ader has come to UNR, she has stunned those around her in the classroom, in the community and on the track. Academically she has earned plenty of All-Academic awards from the Mountain West conference for her 3.75 GPA at the school. Competitively, she now holds three school records and has earned five All-American honors in her respective events.

Currently, she ranks 17th in the country for the indoor high jump. This is only one spot away from qualifying for nationals. Next week, she will compete in the pentathlon and attempt to qualify for not only the NCAA championships but also the Olympics.

“As many athletes, I always had the dream to make it to the Olympics, but now the time has come to turn those dreams into goals, and these goals into reality,” Ader said.

These accomplishments and aspirations also didn’t stop Ader from wanting to make a bigger impact on the Reno community.

Ader on media day.

Helping Out in the Community

Ader has taken part in the student run Reno Burrito Project since April, a community group soon to become a nonprofit organization. Ader cooks and hands out burritos to the unhoused every Sunday and has received great success and support from the Reno community.

“Everyone is welcome to join us on Sundays to help us cook, roll, and hand out burritos in addition to water, hygiene products, clothing, fruits, and snacks. As well as books,” Ader said. “Besides handing everything out downtown, we are always trying to take time for the homeless people on the streets, listen to their stories, learn their names, and make them feel loved and seen.”

It’s evident it’s become a priority for Ader to fit this endeavor into her already busy life.

“This and other projects help our community to grow and get to know each other. We try to spread positivity and hope to the people and making someone smile means the world to me. Everyone is looking for a purpose and role within the community and I am glad that I found mine within this project,” Ader said.

Eliza McCall, a track and field senior and a teammate of Ader also works with her with the Reno Burrito Project.

“The Reno Burrito project is such a cool thing, from the people to the work that they do, the environment is just filled with light and happiness,” McCall said. “I am so happy and fortunate that I have been a part of it for the bit that I have been and I wish I would have gotten involved sooner.”

Ader at practice.

Inspiring Others

With graduation right around the corner, the legacy Ader wants to leave behind is showing others that they can be like her.

“I would like to give back what Nevada gave me and go into college coaching. Not only track and field but so many other sports are more than just running in circles. It brings together people from different backgrounds and beliefs and gives young athletes the chance to overcome diversity,” Ader said of some of her future goals.

Ader continues to inspire her peers, even the ones closest to her. Case in point, Eliza McCall.

“Nicola 100% inspires me. I would be very surprised if she didn’t inspire so many others. The way that she exists, the challenges she takes on, and the way that she continues to admit light in the face of adversity makes the world a brighter place. I hope that every day I grow up, I can be a little bit more like Nicola Ader,” McCall said.

Ader has no regrets of choosing the University of Nevada for part of her own journey.

“Nevada has become home to me and I want people to know that I appreciate the opportunity to be here … Coming from a tiny town and being here now is a 360-degree turn and it’s just great to see how everything worked out,” Ader said.

Reporting for the Reynolds Sandbox by Ryan Daley and Noah Lopez

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Reynolds Sandbox

Reynolds Sandbox

Showcasing innovative and engaging multimedia storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab in Reno.