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Cross Creek Charter Academy Teacher Honors Sister’s Memory by Finishing an Ironman Triathlon

Mikayla Faasse’s reason for putting her body through a rigorous 140.6 miles of swimming, bicycling, and running is deeply personal.

The Cross Creek Charter Academy special education teacher completed the Ironman Lake Placid triathlon on July 24. The race consists of 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles on the bike, followed by a marathon (26.2 miles), and has a time limit of 17 hours. Faasse swam at Hope College and had done triathlons in various formats, but Lake Placid was her first full Ironman triathlon.

Mikayla Faasse finished 777th out of 1,816 competitors at the Ironman Lake Placid triathlon July 24.

Completing an Ironman triathlon is no easy feat; 1,816 people (about 80%) finished the race at Lake Placid. Faasse competed in honor of her sister, Marissa, who died of cancer four years ago and often attended Mikayla’s swim meets, sometimes handling announcing duties. As she swam, biked, and ran with the Adirondack Mountains as a backdrop in the same village that hosted the 1980 Winter Olympics, the memory of Marissa pushed Faasse through the mental and physical fatigue.

“Remembering that your ‘why’ is whatever your purpose for racing, those are the things that kind of keep you taking one step forward toward the finish line,” she said. “It doesn’t matter when you finish. It’s crossing the finish line knowing there was a purpose behind it.”

Ironman Lake Placid competitors swam 2.4 miles.

Faasse completed the swimming portion in 1 hour, 4 minutes, 42 seconds, bike in 6:57:05, and run in 5:12:51 for a time of 13:29:36 to place 19th in the 25-29-year-old female division. She said the last 13 miles of running were the toughest as the changes in elevation and cumulative distance took a toll.

“I was ready to be done and walked a lot, but at the same time I had at least gotten to the point that I was like ‘I’ve got time even if I were to walk the rest of these 13 miles,’” she said. “I will make it across the finish line. Even though I was getting down in the dumps, I at least knew I wasn’t going to miss a cutoff or anything like that.”

Mikayla Faasse finished the 112-mile bicycle portion in 6 hours, 57 minutes, 5 seconds.

Faasse’s family has shaped not just her athletic background, but also her teaching career. Her mom was a longtime kindergarten teacher, and her grandparents were special education teachers. She is entering her sixth year at Cross Creek and has been part of the middle school cross country team coaching staff the past three years.

“Middle school is just such a difficult time to navigate in general for a lot of kids,” she said. “When you are working through those additional struggles, it's really an honor to be able to just walk alongside the kids and help them navigate through so much of what life is throwing at them.”

Mikayla Faasse took 19th in the 25-29-year-old female division.

Faasse said she is proud of what teachers and students at Cross Creek have accomplished the past two years despite challenging circumstances, either in-person or virtual.

“We had to learn about flexibility together, and graciousness, and how to make the most out of our situation that we’ve been given,” she said. “I’ve still seen growth within the students, even though it may be small. It’s those small wins that make it such a victory.

Mikalya Faasse has coached the Cross Creek middle school cross country team the past three years.

“The kids have been through a lot, but even if that’s just been coming out of their shell a little bit more and participating in class or identifying the areas that they struggle in and need support. They’re really taking ownership of their learning and doing what they can to improve, which is awesome.”

Keep up the excellent work, Ms. Faasse!

Cross Creek Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Byron Center, Michigan, serving students in Young 5s through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes over 95 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit