Running her first-ever cross country race, Michaela Mast (Broadway, Va./Eastern Mennonite) paced EMU's women to a near-perfect finish. At the Hyder-McMahill Invitational on Sept. 2, Michaela dominated and placed first on the 5k course in 20:16.7, more than 37 seconds ahead of the nearest runner, teammate Megan Good (Harrisonburg, Va./Eastern Mennonite).
Michaela has never been on a cross country team before; in fact, she played soccer all the way up until college.
“While joining the team may seem entirely random, I did put a lot of thought into it. Years of thought, actually,” explained Michaela. “Every time a new season rolled around I’d consider joining, but it wasn’t until this past spring that I considered it more seriously.”
With an active family, Michaela is no stranger to running, or to sports in general. Her siblings and cousins all took part in high school athletics, specifically cross country, which is where her exposure to the sport initially came from.
“My mom went out and ran 13 miles to celebrate her birthday, so that gives you a bit of a picture where my madness comes from,” Michaela said.
Before joining the team at EMU, Michaela turned to running to unwind and clear her head.
“Last year I’d get out maybe three or four times in a good week for a short run,” she commented. “The most official running I did was last December when I ran a half marathon in DC with about 20 other EMU students.”
Despite majoring in psychology with two minors in music and neuroscience, Michaela decided to finally take the opportunity she’s been curious about for the previous three years of undergrad.
In her first collegiate race, Michaela recalls being nervous and slightly hesitant, “I was a little bit afraid, but also very excited.”
Overall, she and her fellow runners earned a final score of 23 after a 1-2-3-4-13 order finish.
Michaela speaks very highly of her teammates, who ultimately reassured her in the face of a new challenge.
“I knew we had each other for support, the elation I felt when I turned around to see three of my teammates coming in strong at 2, 3, and 4 still makes me smile!” said Michaela of a strong team finish.
Coach Hannah Chappell-Dick speaks to the effort of Michaela’s hard work before joining the team.
“She put in the work this summer, and she will see that payoff as we transition to more difficult workouts and competitions. So far, she has risen to every challenge facing her,” said Chappell-Dick.
“Most importantly, she has been a gracious and humble teammate,” continued Chappell-Dick. “We are grateful to have her on the team, and look forward to discovering all that she has to offer, both on the course and off.”
Ultimately, Michaela sees the experience on the cross country team as one that will benefit her beyond her physical abilities and how the ways of being a student-athlete will help her later on in life.
“I am encouraged to be more loving, more joyful, more intentional, and more authentic by my teammates every day,” she said. “I can tell that I am much healthier not only physically, but also emotionally, relationally, and spiritually."