Pernell races on the scene for Nonnewaug track

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Naugatuck resident Michaela Pernell made a name for herself on the track as a freshman at Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury. Pernell helped the Chiefs win their 17th straight Berkshire League title and raced all the way to the New England championships. –RA ARCHIVE

WOODBURY — Nonnewaug freshman Michaela Pernell went out for track this spring for the first time and fit right into the Chiefs’ history of dominance, helping them to their 17th straight Berkshire League title and earning a neck full of medals in the process.

Pernell, a Naugatuck resident, was new to the sport after graduating from City Hill Middle School, where she played basketball. She decided to attend Nonnewaug after gaining acceptance to its state-funded agricultural program.

“That is what Michaela is interested in and Nonnewaug has a nice program that fits her needs,” her father, Jeff Scanlon, said.

This spring, Pernell decided to join the track squad for the first time.

“Some of my friends talked to me about going out for the track team,” Pernell said. “I knew the team had a lot of success over the years and I was a little nervous at first. But it’s like one big family and everyone was so encouraging. I certainly didn’t think I would do as well as I did.”

Pernell turned a few heads and left the competition in the dust, winning gold medals in the 100 and 200 meters at the Berkshire League championships. She ran the 100 in 12.45 seconds while taking the 200 in 26.11 seconds. Pernell also placed fourth in the 400, finishing in 1:02.22.

For good measure, Pernell was part of the league champion 4-by-100 relay squad. But that was just the beginning for the Chiefs’ relay group, which won the Class M championship in 49.96 seconds. Sara Morson, Grace Cyanciger, and Sara Velleca joined Pernell in the foursome.

Individually, Pernell earned silver in the 100 (12.75 seconds) and bronze in the 200 (26.36 seconds) at the Class M meet to help Nonnewaug to a second-place team finish, just seven points behind state champion Tolland.

The speedster wasn’t finished, though, as she went on to the State Open where Nonnewaug finished 23rd out of a field of 69 teams. At that meet, Pernell finished fifth in the 100 (12.70 seconds), sixth in the 4-by-100 relay (50.16 seconds) and 16th in the 200 (26.43 seconds).

Her top-six finishes in the 100 and 4-by-100 relay earned a trip to the New England championships last weekend. Nonnewaug was one of only six schools to represent Connecticut at Saturday’s meet in Saco, Maine.

At the regional competition, Pernell ran a personal-best time of 12.26 seconds in the 100 to finish eighth, while her 4-by-100 relay team placed 12th.

“We are so proud of what she was able to accomplish in her freshman year,” Scanlon said. “To finish as the eighth best in all of New England and being a state champion is just phenomenal.”

Pernell said the chance to compete with New England’s best was the highlight of her year.

“I played soccer in the fall and earned a varsity letter,” Pernell said. “I thought that was a pretty big deal for a freshman, but going to Maine for the New England championships was awesome.”