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A year of firsts for local athletes running at UNR

Douglas, Carson and Sierra Lutheran runners build back up as future races near

By Carter Eckl ceckl@recordcourier.com
Celime Garcia

There were plenty of first from area athletes competing with the University of Nevada men’s and women’s cross country teams in 2019.

2019 served as the first year back in 25 years for the Wolf Pack men’s cross country team and included the likes of Sierra Lutheran grad Jared Marchegger and Douglas’ Celime Garcia.

Initially an awkward introduction, Garcia felt the strides the men’s team made through its opening season has put them in a quality spot for 2021, when the Mountain West Conference plans on resuming the season.

“Meeting everyone was so fun. After knowing my team for four years, I got to see a ton of new faces and it was, I think, it was a special moment because I think it was a special year,” said Garcia.

Now roommates, the two entered the program as freshman in 2019 and helped push Nevada to a first place finish in its first cross country meet in program history.

The excitement of the opening season was different for both runners as Marchegger missed the middle portion of the 2019 fall slate with a knee injury that sidelined him until the Mountain West Championships, where the men’s team took eighth out of nine spots.

“The meets were pretty crazy to see and compete in,” said Marchegger, who ran a 25:29 at the Mountain West Championships. “In high school there was less than 100 people in each race, but in college those 100 people a couple of them are all-Americans.”

Carson’s Rheanna Jackson competes in her first season

While the men’s team was running its first meets as a team, Carson High grad Rheanna Jackson was making her way back to the course after missing her freshman season with some injuries.

 Jackson, who took fifth in the Class 4A state cross country meet as a senior in high school, battled through a stress fracture in her hip as well as noninvasive surgery to fix a heart condition once on campus at UNR.

She was kept out of competition with a redshirt her freshman year, but hopped right back into completion in 2019.

She wrapped up her year with a 24:11 at the Mountain West Championships in Logan, Utah.

“(There was) A lot of time off because with a stress fracture in your hip, there’s nothing you can do,” said Jackson.

It wouldn’t be the only season Jackson would lose after COVID-19 cost everyone in the Mountain West Conference the 2020 track and field season.

“I was ready to run too,” said Jackson.

Building back up

As COVID took away meet opportunities in 2020, all three Northern Nevada natives have been forced to adjust and adapt.

Workouts turned into solo excursions that tested everyone’s mental fortitude to stay at the peak of their athletic ability without any future certainty of what was to come.

After losing her track season, Jackson said head coach Kirk Elias gave everyone new workout programs to be ready for August, should there be a season.

After the Mountain West moved the running season back to January, Jackson and Marchegger have been in the process of ‘recycling’ training in order to build back up for a season at the beginning of 2021.

“An individual goal for me would be to come back and be more fit than I was before and be kind of a leader for our team cause I am a junior now,” Jackson said. “I do want to be a good asset to the team.”

Marchegger said he’s back to running about 70 percent of his typical mileage volume.

The Wolf Pack sophomore says he does a majority of his training bounding through trails in Carson.

For Garcia, the offseason of work has been a different than some of his teammates as he opted into the long distance group, training for marathons.

“It’s been gnarly. This is the most mileage I’ve ever done,” said Garcia. “This is the most fit I’ve ever felt.”

As workouts have ramped back up for the Wolf Pack harriers, all three have goals of moving Nevada up the Mountain West Conference standings in a ‘stacked conference.’

As of now, return dates for Mountain West competition remain tentative, but it hasn’t stunted the motivation to want to battle with runners of similar calibers.  

“We really want to go into this next season really ready to tear it up. I think it’s just a lot of motivation,” Garcia said.