CrossFit Games, Life-Changing Illness and Marriage Before 22 For Mia and Dylan Kade
Michigan has been a longstanding contributor to the teen CrossFit world, claiming more than 30 of CrossFit’s 440 Games teen division tickets handed out over the years. Within this Great Lakes state, young competitors are provided with a training environment unlike anywhere else in the world, surrounded by like-minded teenagers in such close vicinity.
In 2017, following his second CrossFit Games appearance, 16-year-old Dylan Kade took advantage of this. He DM’d elite-level athletes in his area looking for a training partner. What he got out of it though, was quite a bit more?
A life partner.
Admittedly, Dylan wasn’t immediately thrilled by 15-year-old Mia Nightingale (now Kade). The gap between the 14-15 and 16-17 divisions felt insurmountable. Nightingale, on the other hand, was all in from the get-go.
- “I knew from the day we met that this was the guy I wanted to marry,” Mia said.
For the following three years, the pair continued together, training and growing through high school. Both had set their eyes on another CrossFit Games appearance, they spent most of their days together in the gym, which they both agree played a big role in their bonding.
Between celebrating PRs, cheering each other on, and a healthy dose of competition (though Dylan says it was mostly competition) the couple knew they were meant for each other by the time high school ended.
Then, in 2020, tragedy struck. During the early days of the pandemic, Dylan was diagnosed with a severe case of meningitis that kept him in the hospital for a month. The condition led to inflammation in Dylan’s brain, which resulted in seizures, and was given a 70% chance of having permanent brain damage.
All the while, COVID-19 restrictions prohibited Mia from visiting Dylan in the hospital. She says that while it was extremely harrowing, the experience cemented in her mind that Dylan is who she wanted to spend her life with.
- “No matter the outcome, I still wanted to be with him,” Mia said. “No matter what the outcome was, if he wasn’t able to walk, if he was paralyzed, or if he was brain dead, I knew I’d be with him until the day he dies.”
While the pair had discussed marriage before, they were still young, barely adults. Dylan also remembers feeling sure of himself and his relationship when his cognition started to return.
- Dylan: “I knew this girl was going to be with me at my hardest times, so that was an affirmation that this is the girl I should marry.”
Since getting discharged from the hospital in August 2020, Dylan’s recovery journey has been arduous. The three-time Games athlete had to learn to walk again, first. He’s had to learn a lesson in patience and says that he’s just taking it day by day. However, determined as ever, Dylan is back in the gym and constantly working on improving.
- “The one thing I told myself is I don’t want to wake up and be content with life,” Dylan said. “I want to wake up and attack every day like it’s going to be my last, because there was a point where there might not have been a next day.”
This transition from elite training to the very basics was challenging and frustrating for Dylan.
Around the same time, Mia changed up her routine as well. She started a full-time job and had to adjust to a lack of free-time for training that she’d always had during school. Even more than time constraints, Mia says she was ready to have an identity outside of CrossFit, which her life had revolved around for the majority of her teen years.
- “As a CrossFit competitor, your life revolves around it,” Mia said. She remembers being constantly anxious about training, macro tracking, sleep, and recovery, and she was ready to no longer be tied to that. So she made the decision to turn to more bodybuilding-type workouts. “I want to be able to hold my grandkids when I’m 80-years-old and do a cartwheel at 90. I want to be healthy, I want to be strong, and I want to be fit.”
The pair has always looked ahead, talking of marriage as early as 16 and 17-years-old. That dream, which Mia says she’s looked forward to since childhood, became a reality on September 30, 2022. Though their chosen wedding venue was destroyed in a fire a month out from the wedding date, and their back up venue got hit by a tornado, the day went on without a hitch. Dylan remembers the day as “just me and (Mia), everyone else was in the background.”
As the couple looks back at their nearly five year relationship, they’re quick to admit that it hasn’t been without hardship. Of course, Dylan’s illness was a life-altering experience, but there’s been a fair share of interpersonal challenges as well, as to be expected at such a young age.
In particular, they say that finding a balance between priorities–namely CrossFit and their relationship–was difficult at first.
- “CrossFit is selfish. You need to focus on yourself to be the best, and going from that to a committed relationship where we needed to put the other person first was really hard at first,” Mia said.
Looking back on where they started, how far they’ve come, and where they are now, Mia summed it up.
- Mia Kade: “It was good times, for sure. Still good times.”