Michelle Serrano ’20
By Sasha Nyary
In the four years Michelle Serrano has been a varsity runner at Mount Holyoke College, the cross-country team went from a ninth-place conference finish her first year to a second place finish her senior year.
In another big jump, the Mount Holyoke cross-country team went from 39th to seventh in the region — missing qualification for nationals by one place — and the best finish in the team’s history. Two members of the team were named all-region.
The success of the team is her proudest accomplishment, said Serrano, calling it “a true team effort.”
“To have been able to witness that, to have helped lead that squad, was an honor,” she said. “To have felt my teammates’ trust in me, to grow and witness the development over the past three years, was remarkable. The kind of discipline needed to be better was inspiring. And those kinds of results take a village. The attitude must come from not only me, but from my teammates as well, all of us not taking no for an answer.”
The opportunity to be a student-athlete was what drew her to Mount Holyoke, said Serrano, a first-generation college student from Los Angeles who had toured many schools in the Midwest and in her home state.
“None of them gave me the feeling that Mount Holyoke gave me,” she said, “even though a small liberal arts college across the country was not at all what I pictured for my college experience. But I knew I would grow here and would be challenged both academically and athletically.”
Being a student-athlete has given Serrano a focus and an instant community. “Every morning you wake up ridiculously early,” she said, “but you have an immediate group of friends, the people you see every day, who help pick you up when you’re down, and celebrate the special moments with you.”
That group extended to Chris Kibler, who joined Mount Holyoke in 2017 as the coach of the track and field and cross-country teams. Serrano turned to Kibler in her sophomore year, when college got real.
“He knew what I was capable of,” she said. “He taught me that falling down is okay and that I am 110% capable of getting up. He pushed me academically and personally not to be afraid and never to settle. He would meet with me weekly, apart from practice. He holds me accountable and is always very positive and optimistic.”
A physics major, Serrano was able to mesh her academic studies with her cocurricular activities by interning in sports physics in Columbus, Ohio, for two summers, one of them Lynk-funded. She worked for Protxx, a small startup that worked on developing a device that an athlete puts behind their ear to help monitor and prevent concussions.
Serrano was also the chair of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, which is dedicated to enhancing and improving the student-athlete experience. In this capacity she’s planned events and engaged with collegiate student-athletes on the local, conference and national level.
“Regardless of the topic, Mount Holyoke students are at the forefront of wanting to see change and wanting to be active in that process,” she said. “That influence has shaped me in a way I never thought I was going to get out of my college experience. Everyone’s voice is important and deserves to be heard.”