Big South Female Student-Athlete of the Year
Natalie Pearson Sprints to Athletic, Academic Titles
Academically speaking, she is cum laude. Athletically speaking, you might describe her as Big South Conference co-valedictorian. After a record-setting season highlighted by two gold medals at the conference championship meet and a rare second trip to the nationals, UNC Asheville runner Natalie Pearson has been voted Big South Conference Female Student-Athlete of the Year for 2010–2011.
Pearson is the first student-athlete from UNC Asheville, male or female, to win conference Athlete of the Year honors and is also the only Bulldog student-athlete to ever qualify for the nationals—the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championship. Pearson made it to the nationals as a junior, and when she did it again this spring as a senior, she was the only Big South student-athlete to qualify.
She blogged about this unique experience, writing, “It’s crazy here, every single athlete looks like a professional, and it definitely got my nerves going! But, I know I’m here because I fought hard and earned it so I feel like I fit in a whole lot more than last year’s deer-in-the-headlights approach I took!”
Although most student-athletes improve year-to-year, Pearson’s return to the nationals was no sure thing. She had to undergo knee surgery last September, and missed the first few meets of the indoor track season. But the spring outdoor season turned out to be Pearson’s finest, as she won the 100-meter and 200-meter events at the Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championship held at VMI. Her time of 23.78 seconds in the 200 meters set the track record for that facility, and earned her a trip to the regional meet where she qualified for the national championship. Pearson finished 24th in the nation and closed her college career as UNC Asheville record-holder at four different distances.
Even though we are a small university that doesn’t have an enormous athletic department, we can still make it and be competitive on a national scale! I’ll miss being a Bulldog and I’m so happy I got the chance to be one!” —Natalie Pearson ’11
Pearson also was named to the Big South Conference All-Academic Team. She graduated cum laude in May with a bachelor’s degree in Literature and Mass Communication with distinctions in literature and as a university scholar.
After commencement, Pearson returned to her native England to get ready for the U.K. nationals and try to pave the way for a spot on the British team for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. But don’t be surprised if you see her on campus or around Asheville this fall, as she will likely return to the area to live and train. Once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog? As Pearson wrote in her final blog entry, “… even though we are a small university that doesn’t have an enormous athletic department, we can still make it and be competitive on a national scale! I’ll miss being a Bulldog and I’m so happy I got the chance to be one!”