Pernell continues run of success at Merrimack

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Merrimack College’s Michaela Pernell, left, a Naugatuck native, competes at the NCAA Division II championships last weekend in Pittsburg, Kan. -MARK CONNOLLY

There are athletes that compete and there are athletes that succeed.

Athletes that succeed let nothing stand in their way. Naugatuck native Michaela Pernell has found that kind of success on the track at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass.

The former three-time All-State track star at Nonnewaug High has overcome some astronomical odds to become a three-time All-American for the Warriors. In her junior year of high school, Pernell tore her hamstring partially off the bone. Another hamstring injury in her senior year put her collegiate athletic career in doubt.

Pernell persevered and worked hard to get healthy again. Given an opportunity at Merrimack, and after what she had already overcome, nothing was going to stand in her way. Not even the fact that there is no on campus facility for indoor track and field, and often times she has to travel to off-campus facilities.

“Sometimes my day will start at 5 a.m. and I don’t get back to the dorm until 9 p.m.,” Pernell said. “It’s an hour there to practice and an hour back, so it takes a special kind of commitment. I can’t thank all of my coaches throughout my career for all that they have done to help me to achieve what I have accomplished.”

At this year’s Northeast 10 Indoor Track and Field Championships, Pernell was named the MVP after winning titles in the 60 meters (7.59) and the 200 meters (24.67). Both times qualified her for the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships for the second year in a row.

Pernell made school history at the NCAA championships last weekend in Pittsburg, Kan.

She became the school’s first All-American in the 60 meters at the NCAAs and broke her previous school record with a 7.49 in the preliminaries. She also became the second female track athlete at Merrimack to earn more than one All-American honors.

Pernell finished seventh in the 200 meters (24.36) and eighth in the 60 meters (7.58), earning her first team All-American honors.

“My coach, Peter Early, has been so supportive of me in my career at Merrimack and I couldn’t have done any of this without his support,” Pernell said. “I’ve been to the nationals before, and it was like, ‘Show up have fun and see what happens.” But this year was, ‘No, show up and show up.’ I wanted to make a name for myself. I wouldn’t be happy just competing. I wanted to do well both days going back-to-back, and it’s something I will never forget.”

Pernell has also received plenty of support from her family over the years.

“I will never be able to repay my parents for all that they have done,” she said. “Having that family support, especially traveling out to cheer me on at the nationals, is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. It’s no longer about track and field, it’s about living the moment and sharing such a special part of my life.

“They have been there every step of the way and have experienced all the highs and lows of my career. Being an All-American and being named Most Outstanding Performer at the Northeast 10 championships only makes me push myself to achieve even more.”