Mary O'Connell '16 may only be in her first year with the Big Green, but she has already proven invaluable to the Nordic ski team. From first-place finishes in the EISA Championship to competing with other top skiers in the Czech Republic, O'Connell has had anything but a typical freshman experience.
Before committing to cross-country, O'Connell competed in Nordic combined skiing, a combination of Nordic ski jumping and racing. Three years ago, O'Connell decided to race exclusively, and her career has taken off ever since.
"I chose to come to Dartmouth because I knew the school would give me the best of both worlds," she said. "I knew for both academics and for skiing, I would feel the most comfortable. The team, the school and the atmosphere made Dartmouth the place for me."
O'Connell said that the team dynamic helped carry her through the season, and she considers the team's energy and spirit a main highlight of this season.
"I love that team traditions we have are about having fun all together," O'Connell said. "Everything, from dying our hair pink to wearing glitter and tattoos at carnivals shows off our spirit, and I have been so excited to be a part of it."
Other than dying her hair the traditional pink and wearing glitter, O'Connell cites this past weekend's performance at the EISA Championship as another major highlight of the season. O'Connell placed first in the women's five-kilometer classic, battling in a tough race against Middlebury College's Annie Pokorny. She also took home a first-place victory in the 10-kilometer classic. She said she even plans to dye her hair a brighter shade of pink before the NCAA championships this upcoming weekend.
"Winning the women's trophy this past weekend was amazing," O'Connell said. "We had our best finishes, and it was so exciting to be a part of it, especially in my first year at Dartmouth."
O'Connell has played a key role in the Nordic team's success.
"It has been wonderful to coach Mary this past season," coach Cami Thompson-Graves said. "She is incredibly organized, and is the kind of person who gets everything done that they need to be done. She really takes care of the details and has a great attitude, so it is not surprising that she has been so successful."
Teammate Corey Stock '16 agreed, citing O'Connell's work ethic and positive attitude.
"Mary is awesome to have on the team, both as a fellow '16 and as a training partner," Stock said. "She has the best attitude, and is always supportive of people in training and in the community. Everyone on the team loves her, and it has been amazing to have her this season."
O'Connell has the foundation to make a serious impact in the sport, and she will get her next opportunity when the Nordic team competes at the NCAA championships, hosted by Middlebury in March.
"I'm really excited to compete at the NCAA championships," O'Connell said. "Everyone is going to be there supporting us, and I know we can do incredibly well. Because I'm a freshman, I hopefully have a few more years to go to the NCAA championships, and so I'm just excited to absorb it all and take it all in."
O'Connell hopes to compete beyond the East Coast.
"I would love to see myself ski racing internationally," O'Connell said. "I already had experience with that earlier this year, when I went to the Czech Republic in the winter to compete. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience and it was great to make those connections in the international skiing world."
O'Connell is also dedicated student, and sees her future not just in skiing but also in academia. While still deciding on her major, O'Connell is focusing on a mathematics or engineering track. "I hope to keep doing well on the Eastern skiing circuit, and I hope to make a lot of connections in the area," she said. "I think the NCAA Championships are just a jumping off point for my Dartmouth skiing career."