When Nancy Fiddler (formerly known as Nancy Ingersoll) graduated from Bates College in 1978, her otherworldly level of tenacity and talent was unlike anything this school had ever seen. The first Bates woman to ever compete in the Olympics, it’s nearly impossible to overstate the impact Fiddler has made on Bates athletics. As we researched for this project on Bates’ top ten all-time athletes, which will conclude next week with a feature on our number one athlete, my co-editor Jamo and I were shocked that we’d somehow never heard of a pioneer and champion of I Fiddler’s stature.

In 1974, Ingersoll came to Lewiston from Weston, Mass., planning to play field hockey and join the fledgling, non-accredited women’s lacrosse team. The next year, Coach Bob Flynn convinced Ingersoll to add to her already hefty academic and athletic platter by trying cross-country skiing. A complete novice to the sport, Ingersoll soon realized that she was also a natural. Racing against opponents who’d been skiing for many years, Ingersoll didn’t struggle mightily in her first few races, as one might expect. Instead, she won. Then won again, and again. She won every single race that she competed in as a cross-country skier at Bates. On the strength of that sustained excellence, Ingersoll became the first Bates skiing All-American. Ingersoll essentially stared down the notion that perfection is unattainable, and she scoffed at it.

Given her knack for obliterating any and all competition, the national and world stages were the next logical steps for Ingersoll. But as she pursued her ambitions, Ingersoll advocated for women’s sports at Bates, successfully pushing to officially make women’s lacrosse and cross-country club sports. Eventually, both sports gained varsity status. Meanwhile, after a hiatus from competition, Fiddler qualified for the US cross-country skiing World Championship team in 1987. Then, in 1988, Ingersoll Fiddler was named to the 1988 Olympic team, representing the United States in Calgary in the 5k, 10k, 20k, and 4X5k races. Over the next seven years, Fiddler established herself as the undisputed top US cross-country skier. If Fiddler’s performance as the best US finisher in the 1992 Albertville Olympics isn’t enough to persuade you that she deserves that title, consider that she won 14 US national titles, including sweeps of the 5k, 15k, and 30k events in 1989 and 1991.

Fiddler now teaches and mentors young skiers near her Mammoth Lakes, California residence, creating local school Nordic teams and training many athletes who have qualified for the prestigious Junior Nationals. Fiddler’s achievements defy conventional wisdom. A Division III athlete who didn’t start cross-country skiing until her sophomore year in college became an Olympian and 14-time national champion? You better believe it. 37 years after Fiddler’s graduation, her daughter, Laurel Fiddler ’17, is currently a member of the Bates Nordic team.