SAN DIEGO — After she had completed her record-breaking swim in the 100-yard freestyle, Mt. Carmel's Heather Merten accepted the congratulations and immediately plunged into the nearby warmup pool to prepare for her next event.
As the freshman swimmer glided through her warmup laps, a smile stretched across her face, apparently the only acknowledgement of her record-shattering feats in the Mt. Carmel pool at the preliminary meet Wednesday, held to determine qualifiers for the San Diego Section meet Saturday.
Merten had no time to savor her success. She still had to swim in the 400 freestyle relay.
In that relay, Merten swam the final 100 yards in 53.19, finishing 20 yards in front of her nearest competitor, to help Mt. Carmel to a meet-record 3:40.01 finish, bettering San Pasqual's 1977 record of 3:42.78.
Merten swam the 50 freestyle in 24.40 to eclipse Helix's Stacy Smith's meet-record time of 24.75 in 1978. Merten also swam a record 52.92 in the 100 freestyle to better Smith's meet record of 53.36 in 1978.
Mt. Carmel Coach Steve Eisler said he believes Merten's success is partly because of her dedication to the sport. She trains nearly 25 hours a week.
"She pushes herself very hard in her workouts," Eisler said. "She's always pleasant to work with and willing to swim her best whatever the workout--whether it's her best event or her worst."
Merten said that when she trains, she tries to push herself even when the pain of using nearly every muscle in her body seems unbearable.
"The last 25 yards (in the 100 freestyle) your body just wants to stop right there," she said. "But I try and think about keeping my strokes together and no matter how bad the pain is, to keep going."
When she was finishing her leg of the 400 freestyle relay, Merten said she noticed the closest swimmer to her was nearly a pool's-length away, which motivated her to swim even harder.
"I like to try and see how far I can go ahead," she said. "It motivates me a lot."
Merten seems to shake off the fact that she is a freshmen who is outdistancing upperclassmen in the pool on a regular basis.
"I never think about how old the other swimmers are," she said. "I just try to think of them as swimmers.
"There are other freshmen who are doing well, like Michelle Butcher (Granite Hills), so it's no big deal. To some people it is, but it's not to me."
Merten said she felt confident that she could improve her record times in Saturday's 1 p.m. final at Mt. Carmel. She needs to swim a 24.25 in the 50 freestyle to be considered for All-American honors, Eisler said.
CIF San Diego Section Girls' Qualifiers:
200 medley relay--University City 1:57.28, Patrick Henry 1:58.00, Fallbrook 1:59.56, Fallbrook 1:59.56, Valhalla 1:59.59, Crawford 2:00.94; 200 freestyle--Marilyn Peck (Point Loma) 1:55.39, Nancy Watier (Mt. Carmel) 2:10.40, Alyssa Higdon (Coronado) 1:58.64, Anne Murphy (Valhalla) 1:58.83, Robin Bruce (Hilltop) 1:59.31, Laura Smith (Orange Glen) 1:59.37; Individual medley--Hilary Higdon (Coronado) 2:10.23, Sheryl Watier (Mt. Carmel) 2:10.40, Karla Kish (Mt. Carmel) 2:11.54, Alison Maxwell (University City) 2:13.38, Michelle Butcher (Granite Hills) 2:15.40, Diana Palma (Patrick Henry) 2:15.76; 50 freestyle--Heather Merten (Mt. Carmel) 24.40, Lori Sanchez (University City) 24.90, Debbie Daniels (Poway) 24.95, Erin Chapman (Fallbrook) 25.55, Sharon Glueck (Helix) 25.64, Dorrie Manriquez (Orange Glen) 25.91; 100 butterfly--Hilary Higdon (Coronado) 58.84, Diana Palma (Patrick Henry) 58.89, Lisa Clark (Point Loma) 1:00.01, Chris Lott (Valhalla) 1:00.76, Laura Smitch (Orange Glen) 1:01.09, Sara Saltzstein (Valhalla) 1:02.35; 100 freestyle--Heather Merten (Mt. Carmel) 52.92, Debbie Daniels (Poway) 54.49, Lori Sanchez (University City) 55.18, Sharon Glueck (Helix) 55.93, Erin Chapman (Fallbrook) 56.50, Tabitha Bonney (Chula Vista) 56.50; 500 freestyle--Marilyn Peck (Point Loma) 5:01.83, Michelle Butcher (Granite Hills) 5:04.06, Anne Murphy (Valhalla) 5:05.34, Joanna Zeiger (Patrick Henry) 5:09.30, Robin Bruce (Hilltop) 5:11.10, Alyssa Higdon (Coronado) 5:12.31; 100 backstroke--Alison Maxwell (University City) 1:00.30, Karla Kish (Mt. Carmel) 1:02.18, Kristen Ranger (Poway) 1:03.09, Chris Lott (Valhalla) 1:04.62, Christine Glaser (Coronado) 1:05.13, Carol Eisle (University) 1:06.41; 100 breaststroke--Lisa Clark (Point Loma) 1:09.06, Debbie Manriquez (Orange Glen) 1;09.69, Sara Saltzstein (Valhalla) 1:09.71, Sheryl Watier (Mt. Carmel) 1:10.08, Natora Madler (Crawford) 1:10.58, Natalie Trost (Mt. Carmel) 1:11.16; 400 freestyle relay--Mt. Carmel 3:40.01, Point Loma 3:50.42, Valhalla 3:53.28, Coronado 3:53.48, Poway 3:53.75, Chula Vista 3:54.43.