Loyola’s Own Polished Women’s Track Athlete: Nora Wollen

Women’s track and field student-athlete and side business entrepreneur Nora Wollen makes her name known on and off the track as not only a polished athlete but a talented nail artist.

When it comes to her athletic career, distance runner Nora Wollen has climbed up the ranks during her sophomore year as a Loyola athlete, setting multiple personal and program records. Last year, Wollen placed 1st in the 1500 event at Illinois State University’s Redbird Challenge, improving on her previous record with a time of four minutes and 39 seconds. Despite a busy training schedule, Wollen finds a way to combine track and field with another favorite interest — nail artistry, ensuring brightly decorated nails as she competes for her next title.

Wollen started her career as a runner when she was in sixth grade. She said she started running out of enjoyment but never considered she would have a collegiate running career until she had her first breakout season in high school. After her first season in high school, Wollen said she became more competitive and grew to fall in love with the sport because of little things she picked up along the way. 

Wollen said an example of the little things consisted of expanding her relationships with her Loyola teammates, as well as coach Gavin Kennedy.

Nora Wallen said she’s being doing nails since elementary school. (Courtesy of Loyola Athletics)

“Nora was number one in cross country and led us to win our first A-10 title,” Kennedy said. “People really gravitate towards Nora. She has a polarizing personality. As a coach, you absolutely want someone like that on a team.”

Kennedy said his responsibility as a coach is to put Wollen in high-pressure situations to help her continue to flourish in her athletic career at Loyola. 

Kennedy spoke highly of her toughness and heightened self-expectations, saying he really identifies with her persistent hard work.

As long as she’s been running, Wollen has been working on her nail artistry.

“I’ve been doing nails since elementary school,” Wollen said. “I remember I would do a design and then pick off my nail polish the same day just so I could do a new design. I think that’s when I really fell in love with nail art.”

Though her passion goes all the way back to when she was younger, Wollen said she feels her talent grew when she learned how to do gel nails during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wollen then started to use a buildable base acrylic to make a 3D texture on the nail surface, creating squiggles, shapes and other designs on top of her own nails. Wollen said she gets excited when clients come in asking for designs she’s never tried. 

Wollen said her favorite designs to work with are sparkly rhinestones and glitter. Another favorite is the recent trend of colored french tips.

“Doing nails on the side really helps me separate track and my own personal hobbies because having something to do besides running really helps me ground myself,” Wollen said. “I love to be all glam on the track, as well.”

Although she loves to keep her own nails done, Wollen oftentimes finds herself doing the nails of her track teammates most. Wollen said she’s managed to grow her clientele from childhood friends and family to Loyola students in the past two years, creating new and close friendships because of it. Wollen said pursuing her adoration of nail artistry helps her feel grounded as a person, and that she strives for her clients to feel the same way.

Despite Wollen’s love for painting her own nails, she prefers getting to make her teammates and clients feel special through her nail artistry. One of her biggest customers is close friend and junior mid-distance runner Fran Hendrickson, who said Wollen has always done a great job on her nails and that she also admires her consistent hard work.

“I love getting my nails done by her”, Hendrickson said. “It’s just more time that we get to spend together. It’s something fun to bond over outside of practice.”

Wollen encourages those interested to contact her about setting up appointments through her Instagram @lovely.polished.

Waverly Cayo

Waverly Cayo