Eight years ago, Emma Wahlenmaier established her running career with her competitive heart leading the way to her first day of practice the summer before freshman year back in high school.
Wahlenmaier finished the morning tasting blood and dreaded the thought of returning to do the same thing the following day.
Her career kicked off with a love-hate relationship with running, but after forming a steady pace and a team bond with all the girls, it quickly became something she would love doing.
A few months later, she made the official decision to join the track and field team instead of staying on the path of swim not knowing how far she would go in her running.
During her junior year at Palo Verde High School, Wahlenmaier ran a 2:20.15 during her 800m race, only two seconds shy of setting the new school record. To this day, she still holds third place on the school’s leaderboard for track.
Soon after, she was recruited for both UNLV’s cross country and track team as she took her running career to the college level.
"After my final race for State, Coach Davis (PV Coach) and Coach Harris (UNLV Coach) kind of had a conversation, they shook hands and then Coach Davis went ‘she’s yours now.’” Wahlenmaier said. “That was pretty memorable because I watched that happen and it was a moment of realization.”
"Wow- it’s happening right in front of my eyes and I’m just transferring coaches like that. It felt surreal at the moment.”
Every passing year, Wahlenmaier falls more in love with not only running but the opportunity to run for the Rebels as well.
With Vegas pride filling the city, Wahlenmaier chose UNLV for the highly competitive spirit followed by the amount of support from the entire community. As a native, it was especially appealing to be able to have her parents at every home meet to cheer her on.
"I’m as close with the team and coaches as I am with my family,” Wahlenmaier said. “I wasn’t really sure what to expect coming into a D1 school. My relationship with the entire coaching staff, we’re all really close. They always make sure to take care of me. We all have each other’s back.”
Wahlenmaier only competed in the outdoor season her first year as a Rebel, running in four meets including the Mountain West Outdoor Championship meet. During these meets, she ran a season-best of 4:45.18 in the 1500m at the Mountain West Challenge.
Her momentum continued throughout her outdoor season a year later, when she improved her 1500m time with a new race time of 4:43.39 in the UC Riverside Classic meet. During this season, she helped the 4x400m relay team to a fourth-place finish of 3:57.12 at the UNLV Invitational.
Even with all the stress of race day jitters and the fears of not making an impact on any of the races, Wahlenmaier manages to tune in her focus on every single race and carry through in a demonstration of excellence.
"It’s overwhelming on race day,” Wahlenmaier said. “I remember everything that I ran and trust my coach that we’ve been doing all the right things. It gives me the confidence to get on the line and do what I need to do.”
Wahlenmaier earned her new personal best for her 800m run this past week when the team traveled to San Diego to compete in the Mountain West Challenge with a 2:09.30 finishing time.
She finished fourth overall in the race collecting five points for UNLV. The Rebels ended the meet in third place with a total of 123 points.
"I try not to compare myself to other people. I just try to compete with myself and try to do better than my own racing,” she said. “I focus on working on my own mentality during the race, and it usually carries me through it.”
Wahlenmaier looks forward to continuing her running career with UNLV as she runs more personal bests. Her next race as a Rebel will be during the Silver State classic this upcoming weekend on April 16-17.
The tournament will be held at UNLV with limited attendance allowed.