Pernell races to national spotlight

Merrimack College sprinter Michaela Pernell, a Naugatuck resident and Nonnewaug High graduate, qualified for the NCAA Division II outdoor and indoor championships as a sophomore. –MERRIMACK COLLEGE

The goal going into the season for Michaela Pernell, the 100 meter sprinter for Merrimack College, was to get through the indoor and outdoor season injury-free. It would be the first time in almost three years that the former All-Berkshire and All-State athlete at Nonnewaug High School went into an offseason without trying to recover from an injury.

Along the way the sophomore track star made her way into the National spotlight.

During the indoor track season, Pernell, a Naugatuck resident, earned All-American honors. She was the Northeast-10 and New England 60 meters champion and finished 13th at the NCAA Division II championship.

“I’m so pleased that I was able to get through both seasons without an injury,” Pernell said. “That was a big relief off my mind after going through what I’ve been through over that past few years.

“I’ve been blessed to have the kind of support from my parents and my coaches. I would not have been able to achieve the success that I have without their support.”

After such a successful indoor season, Pernell set her sights on the outdoor season, something she was not able to finish last year.

Pernell kept getting faster. She put up a season best time of 11.73 to win the Northeast-10 championship in the 100 meters and was part of the 4×400 Northeast-10 champion relay team.

“I don’t think I felt too much pressure to try and duplicate the success I had at indoors,” Pernell said. “I just take things one day at a time and whatever happens, happens.”

“I work hard and just go out and do the best I can,” she continued. “I know the game plan, I know what I’ve been training for. Maybe overcoming the injuries has given me a different perspective and I don’t get all caught up in expectations.”

Doing the best she can landed Pernell at the New England championship in the 100 meters, where she ran a 12.01. She was also part of the 4×100 relay team that won the New England championship with a school record of 47.33.

Pernell also ran with the 4×400 team that finished second in 3:45.45 and took third in the 200 meters in 24.7. The outstanding outdoor season continued as she qualified for the NCAA Division II championship and finished 18th in the 100 meters in 11.88.

“When I started high school I was actually going to play soccer,” Pernell said. “But I tried track and saw how successful I was and it was fun. When you start to be successful at something you tend to stick with it and try to get better at it.

“I have been taught ever since I was a little kid to pursue your dreams. Competing in college track is hard. You really need to push yourself to be the best that you can be.”

Pernell can now check off one of her goals — making it to Nationals.

“The results really didn’t matter,” she said. “Overcoming all the injuries and making it to the Nationals was the goal. Once I got there the results really didn’t matter. I went out and did the best I could and I’m very OK with that. I had fun, I have a lot of memories.”