Where does one begin with Nicola Ader?
Let’s start with the hardware. She’s a six time NCAA All-American. She earned three medals at the Mountain West Championships last season and another gold medal during the indoor high jumps in 2020. She won gold in the pentathlon at the Mountain West Championships, and qualified for the NCAA West Preliminaries that same season as a true freshman. She became just the sixth ever from Nevada to qualify for the NCAA Indoor National Championships as a sophomore in 2018-19.
The awards go on and on. Ader’s records and accomplishments are too long to list in a series of commas. Instead, below is a bulleted format of her placements inside Nevada’s all-time indoor and outdoor events.
Ader’s Place on Nevada’s Outdoor Top Ten All-Time List
1st Long Jump- 1st 20’9.75” (6.34m)
2nd High Jump- 5’11.25” (1.81m)
3rd Heptathlon- 5,607 points
3rd 100m Hurdles- 13.61
Ader’s Place on Nevada’s Indoor Top Ten All-Time List
1st 60m Hurdles- 8.46
1st High Jump- 6’0” (1.83m)
2nd Pentathlon- 3,937 points
6th Long Jump- 19’2.5”
The statistics and records speak for themselves. Ader is the most decorated track and field athlete to step foot on campus—and she’s amongst the best student-athletes the university has ever had. She has dominated at an elite level over her four years with the Wolf Pack, all while building an impressive resume in the process.
But to Ader, the list of accomplishments are just the added benefits of doing what she enjoys most—competing.
“I don’t think about it in that way,” she said. “I just love doing what I do each and every day. It’s great having success, but that’s not why I solely compete. I want to do my best, no matter where I finish.”
Ader has sustained athletic success with the Wolf Pack, but her personal growth in other areas has helped her find a new home more than 5,200 miles away. A native of Affolterbach, Germany, Ader was born three hours outside of Munich in her home country. She set herself apart in her high school career, setting a personal record in the high jump of 5 feet and 10.75 inches (1.80m), one that would place her second in program history. She also set a long jump personal best of 19 feet and a quarter inch (5.80m).
Ader moved across the country to Nevada at the age of 17. She took a leap of faith traveling so far away from home, but her decision quickly turned out for the base.
“Nevada has given everything to me,” she said. “It’s a completely different world for me than back home, in a good way. There are so many people who’ve helped me along the way and have given me the opportunities to continue doing what I love. It’s a special place to me, somewhere I’ll cherish.”
Along with the new surroundings, Ader experienced some hurdles along the way. She soaked in the competitive environment her freshman year and didn’t have time to adjust for most of the season. She said it was a big culture shock compared to the events back in her home country.
“The level of performance was way higher, it was a shock,” Ader said. “Even at random events, everyone was at least at or above my level. That only happened at national championships back home. I started comparing myself and getting down, at one point I even thought ‘What do these people eat here to be so good?’”
Ader eventually found her footing and closed the year out on a high note in both the indoor and outdoor MW Championships and NCAA West Preliminaries. More importantly, her early struggles fueled a burning desire for her to aspire to be her best.
“I just knew I could do better if I gave it my all,” she said. “I had to forget everyone else and focus on myself. I told myself I deserved to be here. And I worked hard to get here, I had to prove it. It was important for me to believe in myself and keep improving.”
As seen on the dozens of awards listed above, Ader arose to her personal goals and challenges. She won gold in the indoor high jump at the Mountain West Conference Championships as a sophomore, and took home three All-American titles at the NCAA Outdoor National Championships that same season.
She followed it up with a string of gold medals, All-Americans and school records over her COVID-shortened season. She accomplished as much as you can ask for from a track and field athlete.
When her athletic goals were fulfilled, Ader looked elsewhere to make an impact. She worked with the Reno Burrito Project—a local group that is transforming into a non-profit—since April 2020.
Reno Burrito Project gives back to the community with fresh, home-cooked burritos and other necessities for hundreds of homeless in Reno, Nevada. More than 350 burritos and supplies are handed out each Sunday.
Just like her craft as a student-athlete, Ader has dedicated countless hours supporting the Reno Burrito Project. She found a new goal to strive towards.
“I was able to find myself,” she said. “Doing track and field was something I was really passionate about, but in the end I wasn’t doing anything with my impact… I could be a role model and give back to what Nevada gave me, and having that purpose outside of track is something I am grateful for. I love being a part of the Reno Burrito Project, we all stick together.”
Ader continues to push her limits in every aspect of her life. Her legacy at Nevada is cemented, and she’s lent a helpful hand in the Reno community as well.
Through it all, Ader has found a second home in Reno.
“I think we always need to set goals to keep training ourselves. And this was the place for me,” she said. “We need to keep working on ways to improve, small or big. It may not always turn out the way you want, but you did all you could. Give your 100 percent and see what happens.”
Isaiah Burrows can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @IsaiahBurrows_.