Pernell chases down goals

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Merrimack College sophomore Michaela Pernell, at left taking the baton, won the Northeast 10 Conference championship in the 60 meters and the New England championship in the 60 meters during the indoor track season. Pernell, a Naugatuck native, was also a part of Merrimack’s 4×4 relay team that earned All-American status at the NCAA Division II Indoor Track Championships. –MARK CONNOLLY

Naugatuck native Michaela Pernell continues to run down the goals she has set for herself one very fast step at a time.

Pernell, a former three-time All-State and two-time All-New England sprinter at Nonnewaug High School, is now a sophomore at Merrimack College. This past indoor track season, she knocked off two more goals: winning the Northeast 10 Conference championship in the 60 meters and the New England championship in the 60 meters, setting a new school record of 7.57 in the process.

Pernell and her teammates in the 4×4 relay qualified for the NCAA Division II Indoor Track Championships in Birmingham, Ala. earlier this month. They came away with another goal — being an All-American.

The Merrimack foursome of Pernell, Olivia Downey, Kiana Weary and Carly Muscaro raced to a fourth-place finish. The top eight teams garner All-American honors.

“Going into this season I knew what I wanted to accomplish as far as goals went,” Pernell said. “The list of being a conference champion, an All-American and a national champion before I graduated was what I began to work on. I did a lot of physical training during the offseason but was still a bit nervous because of the hamstring issues I’ve had in my freshman year.”

Pernell quickly broke onto the scene last year. She got noticed after posting the second best time in school history in the 60 meters at 7.67 and the 200 at 25.05 and was named Northeast 10 Conference Rookie of the Week for five straight weeks.

She went on to earn Rookie of the Year honors and qualified for the NCAA Division II Indoor Championships but didn’t compete when the hamstring injury resurfaced. The outdoor season lasted just three weeks before Pernell was shut down for the season.

“I felt a lot more confident going into the season after the success that I had last year,” Pernell said. “I put a lot of work into it and began to notice I was getting faster and faster and knew some of those goals were quite possible and within reach.

“I knew I put up a good time but wasn’t sure if I reached the goal of conference champion. I was really pleased to accomplish that goal and knew we had a real good shot heading into the Nationals to make All-American status.”

Pernell, a business major, talked about time management as a big factor in setting goals and achieving them in and out of the classroom. A 3.2 GPA keeps the young track star motivated as she heads into the spring season.

Although last spring was cut short, Pernell did leave her mark. She posted the second fastest time in school history in the 100 at 11.95 to qualify for the NCAA Nationals, even though she didn’t compete at finals.

She also earned All-Conference honors as a member of the 4×100 relay team. Based on the success of her second indoor track season, Pernell is looking forward to even bigger and better things during her second outdoor season.

“I’m excited about what I have accomplished, but I wouldn’t say that I’m satisfied,” Pernell said. “I know I can do more and I’m always looking to go faster. I have accomplished two goals but there is still one out there — being national champion.

“I honestly don’t think I would even be here if it wasn’t for my coach, Peter Early. He is an incredible coach. Track is hard. Athletes win by .01 seconds. You really need to have that desire to succeed to keep you going.”