The Back Page's Athlete of 2011, Round 1: Nadler v. Gemmell

Published by Peter G. Cornick and Christina C. Mcclintock on January 11, 2012 at 3:12AM

2011 was a big year in Harvard athletics. Women’s soccer captured its third Ivy League championship in four years. The men’s basketball team took home a share of the Ancient Eight title and entered the nation’s Top 25, both firsts in program history. Football set a modern-era program record for points in a season, scoring 374 points en route to a 9-1 finish and a league crown. Four other teams—men’s fencing, men’s heavyweight and lightweight crew, and softball—also finished 2011 on top of the Ivy League standings.

There were a number of standout individual performances as well. Women’s fencer Alexandra Kiefer captured the NCAA Foil Individual title. Men’s basketball forward Keith Wright became just the second player in Harvard history to take home Ivy League Player of the Year honors. Women’s soccer and lacrosse captain Melanie Baskind was named to the First Team All-Ivy in two different sports and was selected as the Ivy League Player of the Year in soccer.

We at The Back Page have taken on the tall task of determining the best Harvard athlete of 2011. Here’s how it will go down: we’ve selected 16 standout Harvard athletes—eight male and eight female—and set up two single elimination brackets. Each round, Harvard’s finest will square off in head-to-head matchups. And based on their performances in 2011, we will determine who advances and who is eliminated until just one male and one female remain. Then, the two champs will square off to determine the top Harvard athlete of 2011.

Yesterday we finished off the first round on the men’s side of the bracket. Today we turn to the women, as skier Rebecca Nadler squares off against squash’s Laura Gemmell. Check back next week when the winners of each matchup will be revealed.

Rebecca Nadler – 21st-place finish at the World University Games

In only her first season of collegiate racing, Rebecca Nadler did things no Harvard alpine skier had done before. Nadler posted fourth- and sixth-place finishes in her first two college carnivals—the highest ever by a Crimson alpine skier—and followed those up with a 21st-place finish at the World University Games while representing Team Canada. While injuries and illnesses hampered her for the remainder of the Carnival season, Nadler was able to rally in time for the NCAA Championships, where she took 20th in the slalom.

A lifelong skier, Nadler took two years between high school and college to focus on her sport. In the first, she trained with the Quebec provincial team in hopes of making the national team. She spent the following year at the Carrabassett Valley Academy and was the 2009-10 Eastern Cup Champion.

Laura Gemmell – 16-1 record overall, 12-0 record as Harvard No. 1 (2010-11 season)

Harvard’s No. 1 entered the 2011 season coming off an undefeated rookie season that earned her a CSA Individual National Championship and Harvard the CSA Team National Championship. And the Eliot House resident began her sophomore season in similar form, going 12-0 in regular season play.

But Gemmell and the Crimson weren’t able to conjure the same postseason perfection they had the year before. Despite Gemmell winning all three of her matches at the CSA Championships, Harvard fell 5-4 to No. 1 Yale in the finals. Two weeks later, after advancing to the CSA Individual Final for the second consecutive season, Gemmell lost her first collegiate match at the hands of Yale’s Millie Tomlinson. Despite the loss, Gemmell was voted Ivy League Player of the Year, earned All-American recognition, and was honored as an Academic All-Ivy.