Michaela Pernell didn’t take long to leave her mark on the track during her freshman season at Merrimack College.
The ten-time Berkshire League champion, three-time All-State sprinter, two-time All-New England winner and Naugatuck resident ran to victory in her first collegiate race against UMass in the 60 meter dash at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston during the indoor season.
“I will admit it was a little scary going into that first meet against athletes who have been there before,” Pernell said. “My coach, Peter Early, kept telling me this meet was mine and go out and get it. Honestly if it wasn’t for him I don’t think I would have had the kind of success that I’ve had.”
That performance got the attention of the Northeast Athletic Conference. Pernell was named the Rookie of the Week the following five weeks straight.
The Warriors freshman put together her best collegiate performance at the John Thomas Boston University invite when she ran a 7.67 in the 60 meters and a 25.05 in the 200 meters.
Both times were the second fastest in school history and qualifying times for the NCAA Nationals. Shortly after the meet, hamstring issues that plagued her junior and senior year of high school at Nonnewaug returned.
Pernell did manage to compete at the Northeast 10 indoor championships. She finished third in the 60 meters, earned All-Conference honors and was named the Northeast 10 Rookie of the Year during the indoor season.
“I have been blessed there is no doubt about that,” Pernell said. “It’s kind of amazing to have accomplished all that I did in my first year competing in college.”
The former Nonnewaug sprinter went on to compete in the outdoor season for Merrimack, but it was only for a short three weeks before she was shutdown.
She most the most of her time outdoors, though.
Pernell finished the Brown invitational with the second fastest time in school history at 11.95 in the 100 meters and qualified for the NCAA Nationals.
She also went on to finish second at the Northeast Conference championships in the 100 meters and the 4×100 relay, earning All-Conference honors in the outdoor season, as well.
Pernell was unable to compete at the Nationals but certainly left her mark in her first season for the Merrimack Warriors. She also earned recognition on the United States Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association Regional team in both indoor and outdoor track.
“Being an athlete and trying to keep up with an academic schedule is all about time management,” Pernell said. “I’m disappointed that I got hurt again, but I think if I stick with the program they have laid out for me I will be able to come back and reach the goals I have set for myself.”
Pernell recently found an orthopedic and physical therapist who pinpointed the reason behind her reoccurring hamstring issues. She will now focus this summer on rehabbing and hopes to be healthy when her sophomore season begins this winter.
The goals remain the same for Pernell. To be a conference champion in multiple events, an All-American and a national champion by the time she graduates.
Lofty goals for an athlete that doesn’t know the meaning of the word quit.
“These injuries have been very taxing on her emotionally,” said Jeff Scanlon, her father. “She missed out on going to the Nationals at indoor and outdoor with the 4×400 relay team. When they lined up Michaela was in the stands and changed into her uniform cleats and all. People must have thought she was nuts, but that is how competitive she is. She will not let this injury beat her.”