It would be reasonable to think that winning two individual national championships would be enough for any athlete, but Yale squash standout Michelle Quibell also played for three national team champions as well.
When Michelle Quibell visited Yale on her recruiting trip, squash coach Mark Talbott made an unusual offer. "He told me that he wanted me to go to the school of my choice and would help me get there regardless of whether or not it was Yale," she recalls. He must have been relieved when she picked Yale, for he was getting a great player.
During her Yale career Quibell was Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2003, and Player of the Year in 2004 and 2005. A four-time first-team All-Ivy and All-American selection, she was also two-time national champion. Not coincidentally, Yale won three straight College Squash Association (CSA) national championships during her time there.
Quibell's path in squash was perhaps preordained. "I first played squash when I was nine years old," she remembers. "My mother was a pro at one of the local clubs so I wanted to see what it was all about." She started playing competitively at 11, and had played internationally by the time she reached college. Quibell first encountered Yale when the school hosted the U.S. Junior Open, and "the beautiful campus and the superb academics," combined with the team and Coach Talbott, "convinced me that Yale had the full package."
The coaches helped create an environment where Quibell thrived. "Mark Talbott was one of the main reasons why I chose Yale," she recalls. "He is a very unique person in that he doesn't have to scream and yell to get his players motivated. Mark has such a calm and gentle disposition, his players are not motivated by fear but by the fact that they do not want to disappoint him."
Mark Talbott left Yale for Stanford in 2004 and was succeeded by his brother Dave Talbott, Yale's longtime men's squash coach, who added the women's team to his coaching duties. The team didn't miss a beat. "He managed to coach us to two consecutive national championships," notes Quibell. "Bar none, Dave is one of the most powerful motivators I have ever met."
There were a few academic trade-offs to accommodate squash, but Quibell was able to pursue some unique learning opportunities. "It was very difficult to fit lab classes into my schedule because they usually went into the four-to-six time slot allotted to squash practice," she says, though the coaches "were all very accommodating and provided flexibility if we had class conflicts or stressful academic calendars." She was able to "attend a Duke Tropical Biology class in Costa Rica, funded by the Environmental Studies Department."
Her senior year Quibell, in addition to helping the squash team win its third straight national title, did thesis research on "an urban brownfield site (contaminated property) in Atlanta. I developed a set of criteria to guide developers, property owners, or government officials on managing a brownfield development." According to Quibell "there are a lot of factors to consider when developing an urban brownfield including chemical hazards, future safety, sustainability, and compatibility with surrounding areas."
After earning her degree in Environmental Studies in 2006 Quibell continued her work with the environment by taking a position with the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "I'm working with the Climate Program," she says, "we're trying to get federal legislation on CO2." Her plans are "to work for the NRDC for a couple of years, then go back to school in either environmental policy or law."
She's also playing squash. "I play five times a week after work, and am currently training to make the U.S. National Team that will compete in the 2007 Pan American Games next summer in Rio," says Quibell. There are five events and to make the team, "you have to play in at least four and be in the top three in the U.S."
"Yale is a very unique place. I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to spend four years with some of the most talented, intelligent, and driven people in the country."
— Stephen Eschenbach