Freshman swimmer
makes All-American

Merrybells' records
Wood shop reaches new levels

By Tiffany Garrett
Kapolei High School

Six out of seven days a week, you can find KHS freshman Merridith Egloria lapping it up at the Kapolei Recreation Center pool. Her dedication has paid off.

Merridith Egloria: The KHS newcomer has won state titles in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle

For Egloria, known as "Merrybells" for her cheerful demeanor, it has meant a double win at every meet she entered this year. The last of these came at the Local Motion Swimming and Diving High School State Championships on March 1.

In the finals of the 50-yard freestyle, Merrybells was seeded second behind Maui High's Chelsey Nagata, a junior who won the event in her freshman year. They were the only girls in Hawaii to go under the 24-second mark in the event in the last eight years of high school swimming as well as in age group competition. The last person to do so was Keiko Price, of Mililani.

Although beaten in the prelims, Merrybells had something in store for Nagata and the crowd that would rock the pool deck.

At the start of the race, Nagata burst out in front. Toward the end of the first lap, they were neck and neck; then, at the turn, Nagata again used her explosiveness to pull away. For most of the last lap, Nagata was in front of Merrybells by a few inches or so, but in the last five yards, it was the KHS freshman who caught and beat the Maui junior by 0.3 seconds.

"That race almost gave me a heart attack!" swimming coach Dexter Lee said.

That was only the first of two state championships for the newcomer. Merrybells came back two events later to swim in the finals of the 100-yard freestyle, where she dominated a field that included Waiakea High's Tamarah Binek, the defending state champion.

In both races, Merrybells missed the 1995 records of Mililani's Price by only 0.3 and 0.5 seconds, respectively. Although the freshman has the next three years to shoot for this record, Merrybells has completed a grand season by making the automatic All-American cut in both events.

Merrybells, whose favorite stroke is actually the butterfly, said that she gets a lot of support from her team.

"They always cheer for me," she said. "Once, at a swim meet in December, they all had little jingle bells that they were ringing for me since my nickname is Merrybells."

Merrybells' season started with conditioning in October. In December she amazed coaches and swimmers from across the state at the Kalani High School Invitational by winning the 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke, setting a meet record in the latter race.

Despite her accomplishments, she remains a normal, next-door-neighbor type of person. She is friendly and inspires other young swimmers to work hard. She has been a role model especially for young girls who watch as she races with the guys and beats them.

"I enjoy swimming because it's something that I do well, and I have made a lot of friends in swimming," she explained.

Remarked teammate and fellow state champion Edward Afualo, "Merrybells is just getting started."


Merrybells' record collection

Meet records that Kapolei freshman Merridith "Merrybells" Egloria has set in 2003:

Kauai Invitational: 200-yard freestyle, 1 minute, 59.4 seconds

OIA JV Championships: 100-yard freestyle, 53.78 seconds; 100-yard backstroke, 1 minute, 0.67 seconds

OIA West Championships: 50-yard freestyle, 24.44 seconds

OIA Championships: 100-yard freestyle, 53.26 seconds

Source: Kapolei High School

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