The first real outside-the-beaten-path commitment for the class of 2014 came this week, when SwimMAC Carolina’s Heather Merritt verbally committed to the University of South Carolina.
Merritt is a game changer for the Gamecocks. In a conference absolutely loaded with backstrokers, South Carolina has only had one woman ever go under 55 seconds in the race. It’s highly likely that Merritt will be there second, as she comes out of her junior year with a best of 54.97 in the 100 yard race, which was done at sectionals last March. That’s just .23 seconds away, already, from the school record set by Megan Sparks in 2009.
That’s not the only event in which she’ll have an immediate impact for the program. She’s also been 1:59.0 in the 200 yard back, which makes two events in which she should score in the B-Final or better at SEC’s right away.
She’ll also be a free relay contributor, more-than-likely. South Carolina doesn’t only returns one swimmer this season who flat-started faster than Merritt last year in the 100 (51.71) free, and none in the 200 (1:49.0) yard freestyle.
To top things off, she’s a 55.7 butterflier and a 2:02.8 IM’er.
After her freshman year of high school, Merritt faced a terribly-painful back injury where two vertebrae in her back were rubbing together, and has said she’s considered quitting swimming. Now she’s a program-altering commitment for South Carolina two years later.