CLAS Women Warriors take home first place in Detroit Free Press Marathon relay

Students Anindita Mitra and Imad Soukar came to cheer on Biology Professor Lori Pile

As she crossed the summit of the Ambassador Bridge at sunrise, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Steffi Hartwell had no idea her Detroit Free Press Marathon team would take home first place.

“It’s such a huge marathon, I never imagined we would win,” said Hartwell.

But the "CLAS Women Warriors" relay team did just that — in fact, they bested the other teams in the women’s masters division by 15 minutes. 

Alongside Hartwell, the team was composed of CLAS professors Elena Past, Lori Pile and Diane Cress. They were joined by Dana Renga, a friend of the group.

Hartwell and Past were inspired to form the team after a casual conversation about running. "She knew I was an easy mark and that I haven't had time to race in Detroit," Hartwell said. "We debated having a co-ed team, but Professors Pile and Cress accepted right away. The rest is history." 

Hartwell, an avid runner and athlete, has competed in several races, including the illustrious Boston Marathon. For her, running isn’t just a means to hit her daily step count — it's a way of life. "Running means rhythm and an hour alone to think,” she said. “I’m not big on pampering myself. I don’t do my nails or go to spas, so exercising is the way I take care of myself.” 

Italian Professor Elena Past completes her leg of the marathon

This was the first marathon relay for Cress, an avid swimmer, but self-proclaimed “reluctant runner.” Despite her hesitation, it was a one-of-a-kind experience. “I was rewarded with gorgeous views of the Ren Cen and the Detroit skyline,” she recalled. “I really enjoyed hearing students cheer for Wayne State as I ran by!” 

Pile and Past have competed in a combined 27 full marathons and countless other races. This time, they were both in it for fun. 

“Steffi got WSU singlets for us to run in, so people yelled for ‘Wayne State’ as I went through the water stations,” Past said. “My serious running face immediately became smiley every time I heard that. I loved getting to be a running Warrior for a day.” 

Pile ran the final leg of the race and learned of the win as she crossed the finish line to a chorus of cheers and laughter from her teammates. “My student showed me the leaderboard on her phone when I finished,” she recalled. “I didn’t really believe it at first. I knew we had some speedy women on the team, but I had no idea just how fast they were.”

Victory aside, the CLAS Women Warriors team relished this opportunity to connect off campus. “Truly, the best part was making four new friends,” said Cress. “Without this race, we would likely have kept working on the same campus for years without ever getting to know one another on a human level.”

The CLAS Women Warriors celebrate their win

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