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Nevada freshman Tierney Wolfgram breaks U.S. junior marathon record

Tierney Wolfgram
Nevada runner Tierney Wolfgram poses with two teammates after setting a U.S. junior marathon record. (Instagram)

Nevada cross country freshman Tierney Wolfgram, who graduated high school a year early and joined the Wolf Pack this summer, broke the women’s U.S. junior marathon record over the weekend.

The 17-year-old native of Woodbury, Minn., posted a time of 2 hours, 31 minutes, 49 seconds to shatter the previous record for a female athlete under the age of 19. The old mark, set by Cathy O'Brien, was 2:34:32 and had stood since 1984. It was only the third marathon Wolfgram had run. Her time was just under 11 minutes shy of the under-20 world marathon record set by Ethiopian long distance runner Shure Demise in 2015 with a time of 2:20:59.

Wolfgram’s time was the 13th fastest of the year by an American woman and tied for the 64th fastest in U.S. history. It was a race specifically organized for her record attempt and included only Wolfgram and two pacers who ran the course with here.

"There are no words to describe the mass of my gratitude for these two guys," Wolfgram said in an Instagram post of pace runners and Wolf Pack teammates, Adam Sjolund and Carson Leavitt. "They trained for weeks doing harder and longer workouts just for 2 hours 31 minutes and 49 seconds this morning. They kept me in line and controlled me in the early miles, broke the wind for me the entire way, and lent me strength during the tough parts. Never once did I feel the lonlieness that running a marathon brings and it's all because of them.

"They didn't just help today though. While being in various states training out of the smoke and harm of COVID, watching their workouts come through on Strava kept me not only accountable but gave me faith in myself to grind through the hard efforts leading up to today. Flashback to just 14 days ago, I was beginning to cave to the isolation of running alone. By the first run back with them, I was so overcome with happiness. I had forgotten what it had felt like."

Wolf Pack assistant coach EmKay Sullivan, who was on site to watch Wolfgram’s record run, said the performance was amazing.

“I’m absolutely stunned,” Sullivan said. “I knew she was going to break it, but she really showed out today. She has a couple of great teammates in Adam and Carson, who helped her immensely in her American record run. They paced perfectly from the beginning and never let off the gas. Super proud to call her part of the Wolf Pack.”

Wolfgram ran in this year's 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials pre-pandemic and was the youngest person to qualify for this year's event (she was 16 at the time). Out of 360 women who competed in the trials, she finished 76th with a time of 2:42.47.

If Wolfgram is to follow the path of O’Brien, whose record she beat, she is in for a successful future. O’Brien's record time came in the 1984 U.S. Olympic trials, where she placed ninth. She later qualified for two Olympics, finishing a career-best 10th in the 1992 Barcelona Games.

Wolfgram was one of the top cross country recruits in the nation. In May, we wrote about her path to Nevada. You can watch our interview with her from last May below.

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