Running with faith

Published 9:00 am Saturday, March 23, 2024

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In January 2024, Suffolk’s Michaela Rose, now with the LSU track and field team, set the collegiate record in the 600-yard at the Corky Classic in Lubbock, Texas, beating a mark that stood for 41 years. Shortly after, she went 1:59.49 in her season-opening 800-meter performance at the David Hemery Valentine Invitational in Boston for the fastest season-opening time in collegiate history. These are just the latest in a young but already storied track career that includes an NCAA Division I championship, 6-time All-American honors, and a 2-time Southeastern Conference (SEC) champion.

Before breaking records and winning championships at LSU, Michaela was tearing up the competition in Hampton Roads.

Michaela, born in Hampton, moved to Suffolk with her family when she was 12 and took a nontraditional route to Division I stardom. Rose and her three siblings were home-schooled by their parents, Michael Sr. and Marcia Rose. Michaela had been running track for eight years, with her father coaching her.

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“I was born in Hampton,” Michaela said. “My family moved to Suffolk when I was around 12 and has lived there ever since. I’ve been running track since I was four.”

Michael, who at the time was coaching at Stonebridge School in Chesapeake, says he would allow all his children to come to practice at that age, but they had to participate in workouts and train — “Papa is not here to babysit,” Michael Sr. said. 

Michaela said she is grateful for the homeschooling her parents provided, and above that, she is grateful for teaching her to follow the word of God. 

“I’m grateful to God that he’s called my parents to home-school,” Michaela said. “My parents have home-schooled all four of my siblings … It’s just the calling that God gave my parents. God wanted my parents to focus on home training, you know, training us in the doctrines of Christ to follow after him and what he calls us to do so we can have him for ourselves and learn how to listen to God’s voice in the things that we choose to do in life, and I feel like being home-schooled, I was able to focus on more of the subjects I would be studying in college.”

Michaela also said the flexibility of homeschooling allowed her more time for personal training, which has aided her physical abilities. 

“You have a little bit more flexibility because it’s not like in the time constraints of being in a school building for seven hours,” Michaela said. “I feel like I was able to do more personal training, like core work, you know, things like treatment. I was able to do meditative stretching, and that really advanced my physical abilities because I was able to focus on it more instead of like sitting in the building all day.”

Being home-schooled created a slight disadvantage in competing at regular meets because her father was coaching at the high school level. Michaela still had the ability to train with her peers, and when club meets came around, she could put her talent on display.

“Having my father still able to train me with high schoolers, I was still able to get that daily competition or daily work with my peers,” Michaela said. “And even though I couldn’t translate that regularly at track meets like at states or at those big meets, I was able to produce whenever clubs came, or club nationals came; that’s when I was at my peak because that’s all I have to focus on.”

One year, during a New Balance event, Michaela was labeled a state champion solely because of her times, even though she had never competed at a state championship. Her times set her apart from her competition. For example, in 2019, Michaela took home first place and broke a national record in the 15-16-year-old 800 meters, finishing with a time of 2:05:53, six seconds faster than the second-place finisher.

It was well before her teenage years that Michael Sr. knew Michaela had a special determination and drive to win and not be outworked by anyone. 

“He [Michael Jr.] was two years older than she is, Michael Sr. recalls. “I remember one Saturday morning, I took them to Mt. Trashmore because I usually have my youth practice at Mt. Trashmore on Saturday mornings … there was a three-and-a-quarter mile loop. She ran it and beat him … From then on, I realized she’s determined. She don’t like to lose when she sets her mind to do stuff.”

Running track has always been fun for Michaela and her siblings, who, according to Michael Sr., spent their free time “playing track” when they were outside and not training.

“When I come home from work, they’re playing track,” he recalls. “And they keep score, I mean times and all that stuff. So even though they were playing on the off days, people could call it practice, but that was play to them.”

Keeping track fun is something Michaela wants every aspiring track athlete to realize the importance of. 

“I really think it’s very important that you keep track and field fun,” she said. “The moment it stops getting fun, that’s when you can start losing your edge because it’s a job or it’s I want to win, and if I don’t win, it’s no longer fun, so just finding ways to keep it fun. Just go back to the roots of just having the wind in your hair or just going as hard as you can and just feeling exhausted at the end but feeling that dopamine that you’ve accomplished something, just have fun with it.”

While Michaela continues the winning ways she grew accustomed to under the tutelage of her father, both Michaela and Michael say it is hard for him to watch her race live, but not because of his coaching obligations — but because he says it is nerve-wracking not coaching her and not knowing what the game plan is, but one thing is certain, he knows Michaela is doing what she is supposed to do in preparation, but the unknown creates a pit in Michael Sr’s. stomach that keeps him from watching live or with anyone else.

“When I have a game plan, I know, from conception to finish, if you do everything to conception and know what the product is going to be on the track,” he said.

Faith is the driving force behind everything in Michaela’s life; without it, she is unsure if she could have accomplished all she has up to this point. With the encouragement of the Word of God from her family and friends, Michaela continues to step to the line and outperform her competitors on and off the track.

“I’m really grateful to my parents for answering the calling that the Lord had for them because I really feel like without it, I wouldn’t have the general strength, faith basis that I have,” Michaela said. “I feel like Jesus has been part of me and dwelling with me my entire life. I cannot remember a time with me that I didn’t know that Jesus always loved me.”