Published July 09. 2013 4:00AM
Dyshelle Pemberton isn't a fan of distance running. She'll do it out of necessity, such as running cross country last fall for Norwich Free Academy simply to help her conditioning.
"It was terrible," Pemberton said with a chuckle. "I made it (through). I made it barely, but it was terrible."
Sprinting is another matter and something she's passionate about. Pemberton was coaxed into trying it as a Fitch High School freshman and quickly realized she had a talent for it.
She graduated from NFA last month with a collection of records and awards because of it, including achieving All-America status during indoor season and leading the Wildcats to CIAC Class LL state championships during indoor and outdoor track.
Pemberton earned herself another honor: The Day's 2013 All-Area Girls' Track & Field Athlete of the Year, dominating both the 200 and 400 meters at the local and state level and leading the 4x400 relay team to the New England championship.
"(Those events) are like my babies now," Pemberton said.
Track doesn't have as many feeder programs as other high school sports, so Pemberton arrived at Fitch as a soccer and basketball player. She has good bloodlines for sprinting. Judy Pemberton Bell, her aunt, was an All-America sprinter at Eastern Connecticut State University.
Dyshelle Pemberton's reason to run cross country her freshman year was a way to keep in shape for basketball.
It didn't go well.
"I was like, 'never again,'" Pemberton said.
Fitch girls' coach Shawn Towne convinced Pemberton to give outdoor track a chance that year, telling her that it was different than cross country. She placed sixth in the 200 at the 2010 Class L championship.
"I remember my freshman year," Pemberton said. "I was in the top six in both of my races (at the Eastern Connecticut Conference championships), and I was like, 'Oh, wow, I'm actually winning. Maybe I should stick with it.'"
Pemberton transferred to NFA her junior year and continued to evolve as a sprinter. Chad Johnson, the Wildcats' indoor coach, had her run the 400.
"He pretty much throws everyone in the 400 to try it out," Pemberton said. "I did it, and I thought, 'Oh, wow, I actually really like this,' and I was pretty good at it.
"It's a tough race. I didn't like the feeling after it, but I thought I should stick with it because I'm doing really well."
Pemberton set ECC meet records in the 200 (25.57 seconds) and 400 (56.92) this outdoor season. She also teamed with MiaLynne Park, Nicole Coughlin and Camille McKenzie to win the 4x400 and help NFA win their sixth straight conference title.
Pemberton also won the 200 and 400 at the Class LL championship meet and helped NFA successfully defend its title. She, Brianna Lenehan, Park and McKenzie set a meet record in the 4x400 (3 minutes, 55.53 seconds), breaking a 21-year old record set by Weaver of Hartford. That foursome also won the State Open title, while Pemberton placed second in the 200 and third in the 400 at the Open.
Pemberton, Lenehan, Park and McKenzie won the 4x400 New England championship (52.18). Pemberton was seventh in the 400.
"I think she'd agree with me when I say that she still doesn't like running," Johnson said, "but she loves winning. A lot. And she's a hard worker. In terms of just setting goals and holding herself accountable for those goals, she's probably one of the best we've ever had. A lot of people, when they set goals they write it down and hide it on an index card and don't not let anybody see it in case they don't achieve it."
Pemberton will continue to run track at the University of Rhode Island. She'll major in biological science, which, like sprinting, was something she fell into and grew to love. She's taken to reading books on cadavers.
"I hated biology," Pemberton said. "Then I took chemistry. That was bad, too. There was a lot of math. Physics was even worse, then I got into anatomy. It was way better than biology. It didn't have any math, which was good. It was just easy to learn, so I really liked it.
"The body is just interesting, so I decided to do that. We dissected some cats, some eyeballs, some livers and what-not. It was kind of cool."