Merrill takes another step in athletic career

Gregg Pohll

Castle Rock senior Joe Merrill breaks into the end zone for his first touchdown against Toledo last fall. He was primarily used as a lineman, but CR coaches found that he was an excellent all carrier. Merrill qualified for the District IV 1A Track meet in the Discus and Shot Put last week.

During the life of many athletes, goals are out there for the taking. They are seen and grabbed, but other athletes take advantage of opportunities and achieve big things because their personality allows them to.

Castle Rock Senior Joe Merrill falls into both categories. He quietly worked in two sports throughout his high school career achieving more and more success each year. On Thursday, he won the Trico League championship in the Discus with a personal record throw 126' 5" in the meet at Stevenson. He also qualified for the 1A District IV meet at Vancouver in the shot put with a 4th place throw of 40' 10". The latter was also a personal best.

This is an athlete that has been without a specialty throwing coach for much of this season.

“I've been in track for four years,” he said. “I used to be coached by [Coach Art] Walsh, but he left my junior year so I didn't have a regular throwing coach this season.”

On a track team, Merrill was not above helping teammates and potential competitors. "I've been helping all the underclassmen throwers," he said.

Multiple times this year, sophomore teammate Talib Meeks, the pupil, out threw the older, Merrill, but when it really counted, the teacher and student went first and second, a full 15 and 12 feet farther the next competitor in the field.

"I have been slowly improving the entire season with an average throw of 118," said Merrill.

His previous best was a throw on 123 feet obtained during his junior year of track and field.

Merrill quietly improved his play in football much to the delight of the Castle Rock Head Coach Ben Suhrbier.

“Joe is a great kid and always works hard,” he said.

As the 2013 season progressed, Suhrbier found the Merrill had what it took to carry the ball along with the mentality of being a two-way lineman. On his senior night, Merrill carried the ball and then Suhrbier decided that he would carry the load until the Toledo defense stopped him.

It never did and Merrill found the end zone for the first time and played a big role in an important victory over their Cowlitz River rival.

The experience was high on Merrill's list of memories.

“Running in a touchdown after seven consecutive carries for 58 yards,” Merrill gave as one of his highlights.

He was also proud of blocking 2 PATs against Kalama.

“I enjoyed practicing with my team and working together to make each other better players,” he said.

Merrill said that there is a big difference between competing in track and football.

“Whenever you have people that rely on you to perform there's always extra motivation,” he said about football. “When you play an individual sport like track it takes a lot more self-dedication and perseverance.”

Through it all, Merrill said that he had some great fans.

“My biggest supporters are my family, my coaches and my teammates,” he said.

As for next year, Merrill said that he plans to head out of state.

“I am going to play football and throw discus for Dakota State University and will get a degree in respiratory therapy,” he explained.

Along the way there will be people that will rely on him and earning the degree will take self-dedication and perseverance. Those are things he has learned in athletics at Castle Rock High School.