Oct. 19, 2011
Mikaya Larson has fought through the pain over the last three years to continue her running career. She is a Minnesota women's cross country runner that is fully committed to the program and gives 100% effort, all the time. The senior from Edina, Minn., is wrapping up her career as a Gopher runner and you can say it has been a bit of a roller coaster.
Let's back up to the fall of her sophomore year in the maroon and gold. Larson began to have some pain in her knee and at first she didn't really worry about it and fought it off. But after some time it really began to become worse and she approached her athletic trainers about the situation.
"They said I had torn my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus," Larson said. "The MRI showed that it had been torn for awhile actually. It happened during a soccer game in high school and yeah I just kept going, I didn't even know it was torn until then."
That January, she went ahead and had surgery done on her knee. That forced her to miss the entire indoor and outdoor track season. Larson said there was lots of rehabbing throughout the process.
"There was a ton of rehab, sometimes two hours a day," Larson said. "At the time one of the trainers had ACL surgery four times, so it was good to work with her and understand what was going on."
That summer she began to start biking and slowly make the long process to get back into running shape for cross country.
"It was a long road back, but it really solidified my desire to run," Larson said. "It made it clear that I wanted to run and it definitely made me stronger, as well as it mentally strengthened me during the rehab process."
Now Larson has worked her way into the top 14 for the Golden Gophers. It has been her goal ever since she started running for Minnesota and she knew she could do it from the beginning.
"I knew I could make it to the top of the group, but it was just a matter of is it going too happened and will I accomplish it?" Larson said. "When it happened it was such a cool feeling, I just looked around and was like wow this really is happing."
Last weekend at the Wisconsin adidas Invite, Larson ran for the Gophers, who finished 20th overall. Larson participated in the "B" race for Minnesota, in which the top eight through 14 runners competed. She finished with a time of 23:29.
"Competing at Madison was really a meaningful experience since I had previously been a spectator at that course cheering on the Big Ten team," Larson said. "It was an honor yet humbling at the same time because no one on our team takes traveling for granted. There was a lot of energy at the meet itself, and it was definitely exciting to be a part of!"
Head coach Gary Wilson is very proud of his senior and the hard work she has put into the program over the years.
"Mikaya is the epitome of what this program is about," Wilson said. "She never gave up during the hard times and the coaches never gave up on her. We are so proud of what she has accomplished this year."
Looking to finish strong in her Gopher career, Larson is very thankful to be part of the Gopher family. She has learned many life lessons from the coaching staff and says her teammates are her closest friends.
"I love the huge team it's like a big family and community. There is so many of us and all the resources are there to succeed," Larson said. "The coaches have really equipped us for every aspect of life, they want us to be a well rounded person and set goals that can be obtainable. They really want us to get something out of the program and I know I have...It has been a blessing."
Larson plans to graduate in the spring and hopes to become a math teacher in a teaching fellowship, in an inner city school system. For now though, the senior is focused on finishing the season on a high note and taking those life lesson she has learned with her every step of the way.
Gopher Trio Honored By USTFCCCA
Bethany Hasz, Megan Hasz, and Madeline Strandemo have been named USTFCCCA All-Academic honorees.
Running to the Runway
Gophers distance runner Sarah Klecker designed a running-inspired clothing line for her senior capstone project in the College of Design.
Warm-Up Lap: Q&A with Madeline Strandemo
Catch up with Gophers co-captain Madeline Strandemo after she ran the second-fastest mile in program history last weekend.