Junior runner bounces back from devastating stroke

Junior Katie Anderla worked hard to return to competition following a stroke. 

Katie Anderla, came to Detroit Mercy with high hopes of competing on the cross country and track and field teams. But nearly 17 months ago, Anderla wasn’t sure if she’d ever be able to run again.

In September 2021, Anderla, then a sophomore, suffered a stroke that affected the use of the left side of her body.

A stroke is a serious life-threatening condition that occurs when blood flow is blocked from entering the brain. Strokes most commonly occur in adults 65 years of age or older, making this a shocking incident for a Division I athlete like Anderla.

The first few months following the stroke did not appear promising. Anderla could not perform any sort of physical activity without falling ill. She soon began rehabilitation with Henry Ford Health in hopes to return to her passion once more. After about four months of rehabilitation, Anderla was able to run a mile once again, making her one step closer to running long distances alongside her teammates, just like old times.

“The recovery process was hard,” Anderla said. “I did go through depression for a bit, but my family and cross country team helped me defeat depression and helped me be determined to go back to running.”

While her journey back to cross country was nothing short of difficult, Anderla immediately laid the ground work for a successful season by setting a personal record in her first race back with the Titans in 2022.

“I’m doing great this year,” she said. “The last cross country season I [set a personal record] every race that I did and I performed well in school.” 

Even off the field, Anderla’s teammates continued to look to her for leadership and found encouragement in her determination. Senior teammate Kaitlyn Murray said she found motivation from Anderla throughout her recovery.

“Watching Katie bounce back has been really inspiring…She never stopped wanting to run and be a part of the team,” Murray said. “She would make it to as many practices as she could even when she could not run.”

Her infectious attitude and determination impressed the coaching staff as well. Detroit Mercy Cross Country Coach Guy Murray has been coaching Anderla throughout the entirety of her college career, giving him a front row seat to her recovery and return to running.

“I am really proud of Katie,” he said. “She has persevered and never seemed to waiver. Katie has made the most of her opportunity and that is the ultimate goal of a coach.”

Anderla’s return to cross country not only impacted her as an athlete, but as a human being as well. Her approach to life has now changed, she said.

“Overall, this experience gave me a different view on life, such as how I should not take stuff for granted,” she said. “It made me realize how running is a big part of my life and I did not realize how much I missed it until it was taken away from me.”