Merritt has kept in frequent contact with Concordia University head softball coach Carrie Kosderka-Farrell, waiting for scholarship approval. Merritt completed her official visit to Concordia about a month ago after visiting five other schools in Oregon during the year, making Concordia a no-brainer.
“Instantly when I walked on campus, I just knew (Concordia) is where I wanted to go,” Merritt said. “The coach is really nice and is like a mother figure sort of. She treats her girls like they’re her kids and the campus is super small so the student-to-teacher ratio is about 15 to one. You know you are going to get help if you need it. You won’t be in a 500-student class.”
Merritt, 17, will enter her fourth year of playing outfield and pitching at Spanish Springs High and will look to move on to fill a vacant spot in right field at Concordia. She said her choice to go to Oregon for college, particularly Concordia University, was influenced by discovering playing sports and managing a difficult nursing program is achievable.
Merritt said her choice to enter nursing is a story she has told several times, including on her application to the program. After her aunt “lost a couple of babies and then had a baby,” she said the duty of nurses became forever imprinted in her brain.
“Watching the nurses and how they have to care for the kids and how they have to deal with the parents really inspired me,” she said. “I want to be somebody who can help them during those times.”
Merritt said she has had plenty of practice juggling academics with athletics during her time at Spanish Springs. She admits the challenge will intensify with more difficult classes and rigorous practice schedules, but she feels confident she is up to the task.
“It’s hard, obviously, but I know that it is going to be the same in college and so I have never given up. That has always been my goal, to keep on that pace,” Merritt said. “I know that some things may have to be given up. I know if I have to stay home and study or if I have to go to practice I miss a football game or something. I have to set my priorities and keep disciplined.”
Around school, Merritt has dialed back her club participation to focus on softball, completing her final classes and preparing for college. She worked in the Leadership class for two years and also participated in the Interact Club to keep involved in school happenings. She said the community service projects will always be foremost in her mind.
“We donated to Green Eyes in Africa, where we raised money and sent it to a guy in Africa who lived in Sparks and then moved to Africa and started an orphanage over there.” she said. “They are so less fortunate and people complain all the time that we don’t have enough and if you watched the video about how they live, it was so eye-opening and memorable.
"I still go to everything and help (the Leadership class) out whenever I can. I think it is very important to be very involved. It brings us closer. I have noticed this year we have a lot more school spirit and everyone is kind of coming together as a school and the classes aren’t separated.”
Merritt said she enjoys going camping with her family in limited free time and she can always be spotted supporting her fellow Cougars from the bleachers. She competes on a traveling softball team where she tests her talents year-round to stay sharp for high school and prepare for college.
“We have a very committed high school team and all the girls play travel ball,” she said. “We all play on different summer travel teams and so when we play against each other during the summer it is nice to know who you’re playing and it is fun to play with the girls from your school.”