Truckee running standouts Flora, Rinne sign National Letters of Intent | SierraSun.com

Truckee running standouts Flora, Rinne sign National Letters of Intent

Sylas Wright
swright@sierrasun.com

Skyler Flora and Gabrielle Rinne have something every athlete covets — an innate ability to dominate their competition.

With still a track season to go, the Truckee senior cross-country and track standouts have combined to earn 12 individual state titles while helping turn the Wolverines into an up-and-coming running powerhouse.

Colleges noticed. Not just community or Division III colleges, but some of the most prestigious and historic collegiate programs in the country.

In front of their friends and family in the school gym last week, Rinne signed her National Letter of Intent to run at Yale University, while Flora signed hers to run at the University of California, Berkeley. Flora received a partial athletic and academic scholarship and Rinne, because Ivy League schools do not offer scholarships, received a financial aid package.

"These girls have talent and determination — a winning combination," said Truckee track and field coach Diana Yale, who attended the signing along with Truckee cross-country coach Rob McClendon. "Mix in a hard work ethic, years of training and solid support from their team and parents, and these two scholar athletes have been able to achieve great things in their high school running careers.

"We are very excited for them. This is huge for our track and cross-country teams, our school, and our community."

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It was only appropriate that the best friends, teammates and competitors signed their letters side-by-side. They've been friends since the third grade and began running competitively together at Alder Creek Middle School in sixth grade.

Both experienced success early, as they advanced to the Junior Olympic Nationals as seventh-graders and finished among the top 11 in the Division I-A state championship cross-country meet as freshmen. They also fared well in cross-country ski racing.

The pair has grown faster each year since while increasingly hoarding state championship hardware.

Flora placed second in the Division I-A cross-country state championship as a sophomore and won the title her junior and senior years — as did the Truckee girls team. In track and field, she's earned seven individual state titles, including the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs as both a sophomore and junior.

Rinne is more of a middle-distance specialist, with her best event in the 800. She's won three state track titles and finished runner-up to Flora in the cross-country state championships each of the past two years. Both own Truckee school records in their respective events.

"It has been such a blessing to be able to have my best friend also be my biggest competitor and training partner," Rinne said. "It's so much easier to get through a hard workout with a friend running alongside you. She has always supported me in running and been there for me as a great friend.

"It will definitely be an adjustment being across the country from her next year, considering I spend a majority of every day with her right now."

With all their success both athletically and academically, Rinne and Flora had plenty of worthy suitors.

Rinne, who's currently ranked No. 1 in her class with a 4.5 GPA, narrowed her choices to Yale, Cal, Dartmouth, Columbia, Cornell, UCLA and University of Utah. Flora, meanwhile, was recruited by Cornell, Duke, University of Colorado, Cal Poly, University of San Francisco and University of Utah, among others.

"One of the main reasons I chose Cal was because of the coaching staff and the current team members, who were all really welcoming on my visit," said Flora, who will race cross-country and distance track events such as the 5,000- or 10,000-meter at Cal.

Shayla Houlihan, Cal's associate head cross-country coach, said she's excited to welcome Flora onto the Golden Bears' roster.

"The initial result I saw that really got me excited about Skyler was her first race this season in Reno," Houlihan said. "I had the opportunity to run in that meet a few years back when I was in college so I knew how difficult of a course it is. When I saw her time and that she blew everyone else away, I knew there was something special inside her."

Rinne was recruited heavily by Cal before Yale won her over.

"I chose Yale because of the amazing atmosphere of both the team and the campus," Rinne said. "The team was extremely welcoming and fun and coach Amy (Gosztyla) cares about the well-being of each girl on the team. Athletically, I knew it was the place where I would be able to perform at my best while also having a great time."

Rinne will focus on running middle distance, specifically the 800 and 1,500 — if she joined the team now she'd be the second-fastest 800 runner on the roster, with a 2:12 personal record. She'll also race indoor track in the winter and will likely run a few cross-country races and train with the team to log base miles.

Before then, however, Truckee's dominant running duo will look to improve on last year's second-place team finish in the Division I-A state track and field championships, while also adding to their personal collections. They'll part as two of the most decorated athletes in Truckee history.

"Any great athlete will be missed, but as these two girls move on to college, other athletes will fill their roles having been inspired by them," Yale said. "They have opened up doors for future track and field and cross-country athletes."