Nathalia Bernstein sprints to success as a member of the track and field team

Kate McHugh

The hot afternoon sun beat down as track and field coach Earl Downing yells “Go!” Junior Nathalia Bernstein races from her starting mark on the Redwood track to the finish line in record time. Bernstein, a former basketball player and current track and field runner, held the 100 meter dash record up until the Marin County Athletic League (MCAL) finals her freshman year. She has continued to improve this past year, despite last year’s season being cut short due to COVID-19. Even with the uncertainty of track meets for the spring season, Bernstein is training with her coach Earl Downing, in hopes of competing in the spring season. 

“She does everything that I ask of her in terms of the different exercises, routines and builds that you need to go through to get faster. We go through those progressions and she is right on the schedule with improvements and drops in [time],” Downing said. 

Bernstein started playing basketball in kindergarten, but she quickly developed an interest in running, leading her to pursue track more seriously in eighth grade. 

Bernstein stares down the field seconds before she races towards her coach at the finish line. (Photo by Kate McHugh)

“[I like it because] it’s an individual sport inside of a team sport, so I can rely on myself to win,” Bernstein said. 

Similar to other Redwood dual-sport athletes, Bernstein was forced to choose between track and basketball because their seasons overlap this year due to the ongoing pandemic. Despite being very successful in basketball, Bernstein decided to continue with track since she no longer enjoys basketball as much as she used to. Additionally, since Bernstein hopes to pursue track in the future, this added time allows her to focus more on track. She is currently working towards her goal of winning MCALs and eventually competing collegiately. 

“I’ve always wanted to really work for something and achieve super highly in everything I do. I think that [running in college] would represent [a really big] achievement for me,” Bernstein said. 

With Downing, Bernstein runs three days a week and does her own individual training on the other days. This intense training schedule has helped Bernstein improve her speed during the pandemic. Downing believes that if Bernstein continues to work hard and stay healthy, she has a great shot at running in college. 

“[Bernstein has an] ability to work consistently, intelligently and hard. She’s not afraid in the least of hard work and [she has] a [strong] belief in herself,” Downing said. “It’s not overconfidence, she just has a quiet, strong belief in her own abilities, which is absolutely validated and deserves to be there.”

As a member of the Redwood track and field team, Bernstein has met great teammates and developed new friendships. One friendship is with senior and running partner Tula Cox. 

“[Bernstein] really motivates me to run well, especially because she’s really fast. [She] makes me want to push myself and she’s just really supportive,” Cox said. 

Despite Bernstein’s desire to continue training with teammates like Cox, coronavirus now prohibits her from exercising in groups, and, according to Bernstein, the lack of running competition slows her down. 

Even with these changes, Bernstein is excited to start focusing solely on track. Without basketball, she will be able to stay uninjured which is essential to her track career.

“I was always injured in basketball, so now that I’m no longer playing another sport that could possibly jeopardize my future in track, [everything is] a lot easier,” Bernstein said. 

Bernstein’s love for the sport and willingness to push herself has made it so that she can continue improving her skills, a trait Cox admires Bernstein for. 

“She’s really driven and motivated, so she practices all the time,” Cox said. “She puts in a lot of work and she really cares about the sport.” 

COVID-19 has drastically changed Bernstein’s plans as she continues her athletic career. If it were not for the coronavirus, Bernstein might still be participating in basketball and track, leaving her less time to focus on her running. Although this pandemic has been very challenging, Bernstein is grateful for the chance to re-focus on track and field. 

“I am very grateful for [the pandemic]. It cleared my mindset of ‘I only need basketball,’ and it has now completely changed my path [and] my future,” Bernstein said.