Senior cross country runner Michaela Hylen was made way down the final stretch of the women’s 6,000-meter run Oct. 21 at the GLVC Cross Country Championships in Kirksville. Breathing heavily, she could see the finish line approaching until it met her. Waiting for her was the honor of being an All-GLVC runner — and her boyfriend Joey Parisi on one knee.
Hylen said once she realized what was happening, she immediately cried both because of the pain from her ankle and because she was overwhelmed by happiness.
To top it all off, Hylen said Parisi gave their dog Rigby a tag that said “Will you marry me?” Hylen said she didn’t notice until Parisi pointed it out to her because she was overjoyed from everything that was happening. Both of the couple’s dogs were dressed in tuxedos.
Hylen said she was fighting to catch her breath while other runners crossed the finish line in the background, some even fell to the ground during this special moment.
Parisi said he decided to propose at the end of the conference race because he wanted to create a moment that would last a lifetime.
“I just thought it’d be a great memory,” Parisi said. “I knew all her friends, teammates and my family would be there to see it and celebrate with us.”
Parisi said Hylen had mentioned once before that she would like to be proposed to at the end of one of her races, but Parisi had told her that he would never do it. So it seemed like an easy way to surprise Hylen.
He said a lot of planning went into the proposal and it almost did not happen because Hylen sprained her ankle two weeks prior to the championships. Parisi even waited until halfway through her race before deciding it was alright to get down on one knee at the finish line for her.
Parisi said he is happy he was able to propose during this special moment and is excited to be engaged to his best friend.
Hylen and Parisi have been together for three years. Parisi is a senior at Truman and studies history. Hylen said her now-fiance provides her an immense amount of support, making sure she is always eating healthy while he takes care of the dogs, so she can concentrate on her athletics.
“He is my No. 1 fan — in athletics and in life,” Hylen said. “He is a part of the reason I do so well.”
Parisi said he believes his role is to keep her in check during her season. He said sometimes he has to be the mean one to make sure she isn’t eating “ridiculous amounts of sweets” the night before a race.
“Usually she gets upset with me because I take away the carton before she gets halfway through,” Parisi said with a chuckle.
Although Hylen has support from her loved ones, her road to an All-GLVC athlete wasn’t easy. Cross country head coach Tim Schwegler said it took some time for Hylen to get to this point, but he said he had faith in her abilities to become an All-GLVC athlete since the day he recruited her.
Schwegler said he is happy with the progress Hylen has made as an athlete in his program the past four years. This Saturday, Hylen will compete at the NCAA Midwest Regional. Schwegler said it’ll be tough to be All-Region, as it’s the top 25 runners of the Midwest region conferences, but he said he hopes Hylen can pull off another stellar performance.
“The last couple years she has developed herself into a really good distance runner,” Schwegler said. “This could be her last college race coming up. Hopefully she can make All-Region team and finish on a very high note.”
The GLVC Championship was a competitive race and, even with a sprained ankle, Hylen was able to finish in 12th place — the top 15 are named All-GLVC.
Although the proposal and conference championship made for a remarkable experience, she isn’t finished running or getting married just yet. Saturday, Hylen will compete at the NCAA Midwest Regional in Cedarville, Ohio and Parisi will be driving more than 8 hours to watch Hylen’s potential last collegiate race. If she makes the top 25, she will move to the NCAA Div. II Championship.
Parisi is extremely excited for this upcoming race and has faith in his “life-long partner-in-crime,” as he said she has been surprising people all season and put in a ton of work hard to get where she is now. He believes it’ll all pay off at regionals.
“I’m still trying to get used to the ring on my finger, but also trying to figure out what’s next for me with running since I won’t be doing it in the Truman uniform much longer,” Hylen said.