Athlete of the week: Natalie Pearl ’17 named ECSC MacConnell Division Skier of the Year

Bruno heads to West Mountain in Utah as it looks to qualify for Nationals

Senior Staff Writer
Friday, February 20, 2015

Recently named the ECSC MacConnell Division Skier of the Year for the second year in a row, Natalie Pearl ’17 has been a major contributor to one of Brown’s most successful athletics programs. The ski team, currently riding its 40th straight win, has Pearl partly to thank for her seven victories and nine top-three finishes this season.

For her conference-leading times and impressive performances, Pearl has been named The Herald’s Athlete of the Week.

Herald: When did you start skiing?

Pearl: When I was two. But I don’t really remember when I started ski racing. It just happened at a very young age. … I’m from a ski town, so there are programs where your parents just send you on the weekend. And it just progresses as you keep doing those sorts of things. I was a part of the winter sports club, which was just racing all the time.

When did you realize that you could be really competitive?

I don’t think I really ever had a moment. … It had always just been what I did and I loved it. I mean when I was younger, I had dreams of being on the U.S. Ski Team, so it was more a point of realizing a more realistic goal of maybe skiing in college. But it was probably my later years in high school that I got to be more of an active member in the competitive group.

What’s the hardest part of racing?

It’s a very mental sport. It’s really only 40 seconds or a minute. A lot can go wrong — a small thing can throw off everything. So it’s a very mental sport because you have to focus everything you have on just 40 seconds of getting down the hill.

What do you like the most about it?

I like surprising people. I like when people don’t expect something. In ski racing, I think it’s really easy, depending on the conditions and how everybody else in the field performs, to either come down and maybe not have your best race or come down and have a really good race. I like taking people by surprise.

How do you practice during the year?

We’re gone all weekend for pretty much the first two months of this semester. As far as training goes, we train on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the morning, which means we can’t take any classes before 1 p.m. On Tuesdays, we drive to New Hampshire, which is two hours away at least, so that means leaving campus at 5:30 a.m. and then driving, training really quickly, and driving back just in time to go to class.

On Thursdays it’s a little bit easier. We go train in Boston at Blue Hills, which is where our race will be next week. That’s only 45 minutes away, so that’s a little easier and we don’t have to leave as early. Other than that, we do maintenance lifts in the gym to help us stay strong. Before school starts, we come back around Jan. 1 to go train in Vermont for a week and then New Hampshire for a week, because our races start at the beginning of January.

Has the recent snow impacted your training?

Yes, a lot. It’s funny because a lot of people think the snow is great for ski racing. And it is to a certain extent, to make sure the trails are covered. But we also like hard snow. It’s better conditions to actually race than a bunch of soft stuff up top. Usually we have to push it all off. … We’ve also missed a bunch of training days because the driving conditions aren’t optimal to get up to the mountain. Then by the time you would slip all the snow off the trail in order to set your course and ski it, there’s not much time left to actually train.

What does the rest of your season look like? What are your goals going forward?

This weekend we are going to regionals at West Mountain. The top four teams from there will get to go to Bend, Oregon to compete in Nationals. We are very optimistic that we will be making that next step. We have a race next week at Blue Hills Ski Area. We have a bus and everything for people to come watch, which will be really fun. We get to race against MIT, Boston College, Babson, Harvard and Northeastern. That will be good because we’re in a different division than Harvard and Boston College, so it will be nice to race against new people and it will be fun for the viewers to watch us race against another Ivy.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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