Distance runner Micaela DeGenero

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Photo by Ben Ennis (Copyright 2022)

A state champion runner in high school, Micaela DeGenero lost her way as an undergrad at the University of Michigan before rediscovering her groove as a graduate student at the University of Colorado.

Of all the times to seize an NCAA title, this was the most improbable for Micaela DeGenero.

DeGenero won the women’s indoor mile race in March after emerging from the back of the pack to obliterate her competition with a time of 4:33.92.

The now-24-year-old ran with the University of Colorado, where she was a graduate student working toward a master’s degree in technology, cybersecurity and policy.

“It was a crazy experience,” she says with elation.

Her victory came after dealing with an arduous start to the season, first struggling to perform well and then getting sick with COVID-19 in January, she says. She was not hospitalized but was “really run down” for several weeks.

“It was hard coming back from that, so I had lowered my expectations for the season,” she explains.

Photo by Ben Ennis (Copyright 2022)

Qualifying for the national meet and then making the final with two teammates was rewarding enough — let alone winning it all, she says. The race was tactical, playing out exactly as she had hoped, with a slow start and a strong finish.

Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, DeGenero moved with her family at age 7 to Granville, Ohio, where she grew up. She started running when she was in the seventh grade, finding it suited her physiology and personality. “I love to compete, and I love racing. That’s something that I really enjoy,” she says. “And it makes me feel strong in my own body. I have always loved that.”

She’s also come to love the training required by the sport. “Going out for a run is often a really peaceful, meditative experience,” she says.

She was state champion four times in high school: once in the outdoor mile, twice in the indoor mile and once for the 800 meters indoors.

DeGenero says she has always been a hard worker with high expectations for herself. “Sometimes, I can be a little hard on myself because of that. I am really dedicated to working hard. I learned that from my parents, for sure.”

Her parents also taught her to be serious about academics, she says. Her mother teaches creative writing for a university, and her father, who now owns a bakery, taught college statistics for a time.

DeGenero graduated in 2020 from the University of Michigan, where her running experience was not what she’d hoped for. At first, she had a hard time performing well, then suffered from a series of stress fractures. “I lost confidence in myself as an athlete,” she says. “I lost my groove.”

She tasted glimpses of success toward the end of her time at Michigan, making a few Big Ten finishes and being on the cross-country team that went to the national championship in 2019.

A positive shift took place when she decided to go to Colorado and try something new, she says.

“Everything seemed to kind of click when I came out here, with new training and a new environment,” she says. “I just feel really, really fortunate to have had the opportunity to come out here and be a part of this program.”

DeGenero will earn her master’s degree this spring and plans to start working as a software engineer for the tech startup Cloud Campaign in Boulder, Colorado. She is determined to continue running but isn’t sure how yet.

“I will continue racing on my own, most likely,” she explains. “Professional running is a world that I don’t know a whole lot about yet. There’s a lot of meets that post-collegiates can enter on their own and compete.”

While there are a lot of people who have been influential in her development, she reserves a special place for her high school coach, Dave Agosta, she says.

“Without him, I wouldn’t be the runner that I am today,” she muses. “He’s always so supportive, and he always believed in me, and he really encouraged me to see myself in ways that I wouldn’t have seen myself as an athlete.”

The above appears in the June 2022 issue of the print version of Fra Noi. Our gorgeous, monthly magazine contains a veritable feast of news and views, profiles and features, entertainment and culture. To subscribe, click here.

About Paul Basile

Paul Basile has been the editor of Fra Noi for a quarter of a century. Over that period, he and his dedicated family of staff members and correspondents have transformed a quaint little community newspaper into a gorgeous glossy magazine that is read and admired across the nation. They also maintain a cluster of national and local websites and are helping other major metropolitan areas launch their own versions of Fra Noi.

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