Tierney Wolfgram, a UNR Cross-Country Runner Gets National Spotlight (Audio)

The 2021 NCAA Cross Country Championships recently took place in Tallahassee, Florida at Apalachee Regional Park. Ryan Daley profiles the only Wolf Pack athlete who competed at the meet.

Tierney Wolfgram was one of dozens and dozens of runners in the woods of Apalachee Regional Park for the elite NCAA Cross Country national championships.

The star from the University of Nevada Reno describes her journey into the upper echelon of cross country running as having started as training for other activities.

“I started running because of soccer to stay in shape,” she said. “Then my parents signed me up for a road race when I was 10 or 11, and I managed to win my trip there so it was like “Oh, she can actually do this thing.” Then I started cross country and just went through that through high school and that’s how I got into it. Then I got recruited by UNR… actually, Coach jokes that I recruited him because I reached out first, anyways then I ended up here and I’m really happy.”

Wolfgram had a ton of faith going to the UNR. The freshman did not go on an official campus visit and put all of her trust in the coaching staff.

“The coaching staff, I didn’t actually even visit UNR before coming. So it was a leap of faith, just like ‘I don’t know what’s gonna happen.’ I just had a good feeling about coming here and being set up and now I don’t even want to leave and just love the area,” she said.

Head coach of both the women’s and men’s cross country teams here at UNR Kirk Elias yells words of encouragement to his athletes.

Her coach at UNR Kirk Elias explains how much potential he saw in Wolfgram as a cross country athlete.

“I was really excited, she is an elite level athlete,” Elias said. “She’s the best athlete we’ve ever had come to Nevada in cross country. I saw a young lady with a really big engine. She had run at the Olympics trials and the marathon and she also ran some really good time trials during the COVID year on the track at shorter distances. So we knew that she had the range and the capability, even though she hadn’t run cross country in a few years of being a top level performer.”

From breaking the school record in the six kilometer, to top finishes in meets like the San Francisco Invitational and NCAA Mountain Regionals, Tierney Wolfgram made history at the University throughout her first collegiate cross country season.

“She had a fantastic year, from finishing second in regionals, from getting a win in San Francisco,” Elias said. “I mean she was running at a very high level in all of her competitions, even her competition where she was off prior to this. 12th at Griak, that’s a really good level of performance. She had the best season in Nevada history.”

Elias was impressed with Wolfram’s season, specifically in the Roy Griak Invitational which has been a top regular season race in the NCAA since 1986, but all of these don’t compare to one of the biggest races in the collegiate scene.

Cheers are filling the finish line as every athlete crosses the finish line for the national championship. After finishing, Wolfgram gets up and walks with the University’s athletic trainer off the course. The freshman was in 117th place out of 255 athletes competing. While this will go down in the University’s history books as the highest finish in school history, the outcome wasn’t what Wolfgram and Elias had expected.

“ I’m not super happy with it, I learned a lot,” Wolfgram said. “I was in the middle of the pack in the start of the race, and normally I find my way to the front really easily so that held me back for the rest of the race. It was pretty physical, people were falling left and right and elbowing people. It was a little difficult to manage, but going into other races now I know what to expect.”

“It was obviously not the finish that she or I planned for. We were hoping for something significantly better,” Elias said. “She’s an 18 year old freshman who basically didn’t run her sophomore or junior year of high school cross country or track. She has very little experience and I think the nerves probably got to her today and she’ll learn from it and be a lot better the next time she’s here.”

The conclusion of the 2021 season wasn’t perfect, but the 18-year-old athlete and her coach are excited for the cross country season to resume in the fall of 2022.

Ryan Daley reporting for the Reynolds Sandbox

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The Reynolds Sandbox showcases innovative and engaging storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab.

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

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