The 17-year-old star dropped a 2:31:49 to beat a record that’s stood since 1984.
Tierney Wolfgram likes to do things differently.
In February, she ran the Olympic Marathon Trials at just 16 years old, making her the youngest competitor in the race, and she finished 76th out of 390 runners. In May, she graduated from high school—a year early—and is now running for the University of Nevada, Reno under coach Kirk Elias. And with the cross-country season postponed to the winter because of the coronavirus pandemic, she jumped at the opportunity to train for and race another marathon, this time chasing the American junior record.
“When I brought it up with coach Elias, I was super nervous,” Wolfgram told Runner’s World. “My mom and I joke that since he knows we’re a bit crazy for me to come on the team early, so I don’t think he was too shocked. Coach was cautious about the idea, and we had to talk about it a lot to make sure we got through this healthy, mentally and physically.”
Wolfgram had said after the Trials that she was going to put the marathon on hold until after college. But with racing suspended for the time being, Elias encouraged his team to find goals, time trials, and challenges they could work toward in the fall as training. The American junior marathon record—2:34:24, set in 1984 by two-time Olympian Cathy (Schiro) O’Brien at age 16—was something Wolfgram had her eye on since running her first marathon, the 2018 Twin Cities Marathon, which she finished in 2:40:03.
Danielle Domenichelli, who works with the Sacramento Running Association that puts on the California International Marathon, stepped in to help map a sanctioned course along Sacramento’s American River. Wolfgram’s route was a 6.55-mile, out-and-back course which she would do twice.
And in order for it to be official based on USATF standards, Wolfgram needed two others on the starting line with her. Her teammates Carson Leavitt and Adam Sjolund stepped up, planning to run 20 miles and 26.2 miles as pacers, respectively.