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Q&A with Nevada's Tierney Wolfgram on breaking U.S. marathon record

Tierney Wolfgram
Nevada's Tierney Wolfgram sets an American junior marathon record earlier this month. (Nevada athletics)

Before running her first race for the Nevada cross country team, Tierney Wolfgram has already made history. The 17-year-old Wolf Pack freshman set the women’s U.S. junior marathon record earlier this month, a mark that had stood since 1984. While the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the start of her career at Nevada (she graduated from high school a year early to join the Wolf Pack), she used that time to train for this month's race and ran a 2-hour, 31-minute, 49-second marathon, the fastest for an American woman under the age of 19.

Because of Wolfgram's record-breaking feat, she has been named Nevada Sports Net's Wolf Pack Athlete of the Month for November, an honor presented in partnership with Champion Chevrolet. You can watch our full interview with Wolfgram below or check out the Q&A underneath that.

Q&A with Tierney Wolfgram

On when setting that record became a goal

Tierney Wolfgram: "Once COVID postponed our cross country season, Coach E (Kirk Elias) had all of us on a Zoom call and he was trying to brainstorm ways that we could all stay motivated to train and come together as a team because COVID messed up a lot of stuff. We had to come up with team goals and individual goals, and I took this as my last opportunity to try and get the record. When I brought it up to him, I was really nervous because I didn't want him to think I was crazy. I think he does now, but in a good way, a positive crazy. He had his reservations at first because the marathon is a big event, and I want to be able to help the team out in the winter. But we talked about it and figured out a way for me to try and do this and stay healthy. After that was settled, we started focusing on training and setting up a marathon in Sacramento to run it."

On teammates Adam Sjolund and Carson Leavitt running as pacesetters

TW: "It meant everything to me. I was so sad I had to leave Reno for a month and a half because of smoke, and with COVID it was better for me to go home. I was so sad. I didn't realize how sad I was until I came back and realized how happy the team made me and running with them. Their support was everything to me in that race, and I think that's what ultimately made me finish with the time that I did. When I crossed the finish line, I was pretty happy. There was a lot of relief and a lot of emotions. I was obviously tired, but I just couldn't really comprehend what I had done. I still can't really. That might come tomorrow. It might come in a couple of years. I just know how happy I am right now because of it."

On pushing the male members of Nevada's cross country team

TW: "I would say it's kind of reverse. I kind of have to put my ego in check. They are so fit right now it's crazy. I actually struggle to keep up with them. They're doing amazing. They're so much stronger than last year. I'm really excited to see how they do. Having Carson and Adam there with me for pretty much the whole way during the race, I don't think they knew it but they were lending me strength, making sure that I wouldn't slow down even when it was hard. I didn't want to let them down. They're guys, so I have to try and impress them some ways. I couldn't slow down and show them I was struggling until I couldn't hide it anymore, so having them there was very helpful."

On the biggest difference between high school and college

TW: "I think it really is just the difference in the team atmosphere. Everybody is serious about running here. In high school, there are people there just for social, and that's totally OK. That's what it's there for, to be a social event and just have fun. But the environment has actually changed, and it's really nice to keep me motivated to actually train and stuff and not get lazy and do the small things, too, because everybody else here is doing the small things. Being here has been really nice to step up my running game. It's really nice here. I love it here."

On what she misses about her hometown of Woodbury, Minn.

TW: "I would say the only thing I really miss from home is my family, and even that I get a lot of that here. With the team, I have a new family. But also I'm on the phone talking to my mom probably three or four hours a day, so nothing has really changed. It's just that we can't hug each other. That's the only difference. I've adjusted pretty well because of the technology these days, and that's really nice."

On her goals for her college career

TW: "I don't want to limit myself right now to a goal because I have no idea how I might be able to compete nationally or even regionally. I don't want to really limit myself until I see where I'm at, but obviously making nationals this year in cross country and a track event would be really nice, so we'll see."

On what she's studying in school

TW: "I'm majoring in psychology here at UNR, and I'm minoring in Spanish because I've always enjoyed Spanish and my younger siblings are actually fluent, so I'm trying to catch up there. Later in life, I do hope to become a psychologist. In the summer, I was kind of aiming toward being a sports psychologist, but now I'm widening my horizons to other avenues in psychology, so I haven't selected a direct route, but definitely psychology is what I want to do."

On when Nevada's cross country season will start

TW: "Our first day of practice, and this is subject to change, is Jan. 4, and I think we can start competing Jan. 25, or around there. I'm really excited for that. I'm just really excited to place high for the team and help our team score, as well as place really well individually. It kind of goes hand and hand, but those are my goals. It's really nice that it's both a team goal and an individual goal."

On the winters in Northern Nevada

TW: "Actually, we just had practice and (assistant coach) EmKay (Sullivan) told me she couldn't believe all the Minnesota and Canadian recruits that we've gotten have all been wimps when it comes to winter. Today, I dressed in two coat layers on top, two tights, a pair of sweatpants. I was like a freeze baby. I actually am a wimp when it comes to the cold, but I really do like being outdoors as long as I'm dressed properly in the winter. It's mostly walking around, not sledding and hiking because my legs have to stay whole and can't break."

For previous Wolf Pack Athletes of the Month Q&As, click here.

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