North Texas Daily

Swiss distance runner enjoys tougher competition at North Texas

Swiss distance runner enjoys tougher competition at North Texas

Swiss distance runner enjoys tougher competition at North Texas
February 14
20:11 2019

Rea Iseli, 24, began her track and field career in Tauffelen, Switzerland, where she attended the University of Bern. Today, Iseli is a track and field and cross country athlete for North Texas.

While at Bern, Iseli received a bachelor’s degree in Medical Informatics while participating on a club team for distance running. The long-distance runner joined the Mean Green in the fall of 2017 with a degree in integrative studies. While Iseli has made a collegiate career out of running, she started her athletic career with karate.

She quit karate because the competition became too serious, according to Iseli. She started running soon afterward when her two older sisters would take her to a nearby town to their gymnastics practices. Iseli began running in her town’s annual race, which inspired her to run more. Iseli never competed for track at the high school or collegiate level, instead participating in club running while in Switzerland.

“We don’t have university sports or high school sports,” Iseli said. “It is like a club team.”

Iseli specializes in long-distance running, including everything from a half-mile run (800-meter) up to a 2.75 mile run (3,000-meter). A few years later, Iseli went to the National Youth Championship in Europe. In May of 2017, Iseli placed No. 1 in the 3000-meter in Langenthal, Switzerland. On March 17, 2018, she placed No. 2 in the 800-meter in a Fort Worth track meet. In her most recent competition on Feb. 2, she placed No. 2 in both the 1,600-meter and 1,000-meter races in Norman, Oklahoma.

Iseli pointed to the population for answering whether the United States or Switzerland has a higher level of competition.

UNT senior track and cross country athlete, Rea Iseli, runs along the track during an early morning practice. Iseli is from Tauffelen, Switzerland. Image by: Adriance Rhoades.

“Switzerland is a small country, so we are not as competitive as over here,” Iseli said. “The older you get the fewer people there are. It get easier but people are more competitive if they stay in the sport.”

Before her arrival at North Texas, Iseli was messaged randomly by a representative for the NCAA, who was trying to get young athletes to come run for universities in the United States. Her initial thoughts were that she couldn’t afford tertiary education in the United States and was not a good enough runner to earn a scholarship. When the Mean Green reached out to her and talked about her coming on board the program, Iseli’s hopes got up.

“At some point, I figured it might be possible to get a scholarship,” Iseli said. “I thought of it as an opportunity to race more seriously.”

According to Iseli, her Swiss teammates rarely spent time together or practiced as a team, and she was hoping that would change stateside. When North Texas offered her a scholarship, knowing one of the runners was a reason Iseli attributed to choosing to join the Mean Green. Florian Lussy, one of her cross country teammates, attributes her work ethic to how Iseli has been able to be successful.

“The main reason on how she reached her current level is the consistency,” Lussy said. “She is working hard every single day and she is also putting a lot of time and effort into all additional parts of training like treatment, nutrition and much more which are really essential in our sport.”

Cross country and track assistant coach, Kevin Williams, began his career at the same time Iseli arrived to Denton. When they first met, he tried to get her to relax about small details to improve her running in the long haul.

“She definitely brings that Swiss culture to the team,” Williams said. “[She’s] very precise, very diligent and an extremely disciplined runner. She brings that to the team and definitely a level of seriousness to the team. There is no slacking off around Rea. She keeps everyone on task.”

In the fall of 2018, Iseli got named to the Conference USA first team for cross country.

“This last cross country season was my best season,” Iseli said. “I finally managed to stay healthy for a longer period of time.”

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Rachael Sanders

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