Valedictorians don’t rest once summer starts. At least that’s the case with Bremerton High School’s 2013 valedictorian Benjamin Merrill.
After walking across the stage along with 320 of his classmates on June 14, Merrill started his summer off conditioning with the Northwest Blaze baseball team. The team has traveled all over the state, including as far as Yakima and Pullman.
“I love baseball,” Merrill said. “I use it as a way to better myself. I’m going to do a walk-on tryout (at Washington State University) and hopefully get picked up for their baseball team. I’m using that to sharpen my skills and keep myself in baseball shape before I go over there and do a tryout.”
With a packed schedule like he keeps, Merrill said physical activity is the way he keeps his nerves calm and his mind clear. With college starting on Aug. 19, the new freshman hasn’t had much time for relaxing.
In July alone, he estimates he took around five days off from baseball.
But Merrill is used to being a busy body. In high school, in addition to balancing AP classes and baseball for four years, he also took part in band and basketball. Merrill is also one of the proud founders of the high school’s writing center. Additionally, Knowledge Bowl and Link Crew were included as part of his extracurricular activities.
He managed his time accordingly and said it was easy to focus on school because that’s what his parents wanted him to do. He didn’t have chores around the house so he could education as his focal point.
“School has always really been my job,” he said.
Competition was never a part of Merrill’s attitude when it came to being on top of his class. It wasn’t until his junior year that it hit him he was likely to be the valedictorian. Peers and teachers were telling him he was the one who would be valedictorian the following year.
“Really, when all was said and done, I wasn’t really super surprised or caught off guard,” he said. “It wasn’t really a crazy moment. It was pretty chill.”
There was only one class that tugged down Merrill’s GPA: an AP Language and Composition class he took his junior year with Patty Krisher.
Although English isn’t Merrill’s favorite subject, he still tried his best, Krisher said.
“At first, Ben didn’t stand out,” said Krisher. “He was in equal company with his AP peers. But as the year progressed, and the work became more challenging, Ben distinguished himself by remaining positive and tenacious. That young man never lost heart or gave up.”
Even after his best efforts were put forth, Merrill got an A minus, a grade that brought his perfect grade point average down to a 3.994.
“That’s what one A minus a semester will do to ya,” Merrill joked.
The small tarnish on his GPA didn’t stop him from applying to and getting accepted by Washington State University. He plans to study mechanical engineering and minor in a language like Spanish or Italian. Merrill chose the university partially because it is far enough away from home where he can’t come home every weekend, but he can if needs to, he said.
“It’s a mixed bag,” he said of starting college. “I’m nervous. I’m excited. I’m kinda ready to get out and explore and be on my own a little bit.”
To be expected, Merrill also has high hopes for what he his future career will be.
“My ultimate goal is to work in Italy and work for Lamborghini … it sounds like fun,” he said.
With big dreams and motivation on his side, Merrill is confident in his next steps into the future. Although he is proud of several types of accomplishments, being number one in his senior graduating class is his most memorable achievement to date.
“(I’m proud of) being accepted to college and getting into college. I’m pretty happy with where I’ve ended up with baseball,” he said. “The biggest achievement is probably being valedictorian of my high school class.”
Krisher agrees that the accomplishment is one for the student to take pride in and wishes all her students took on Merrill’s same attitude toward academics.
“I wish I could bottle his resilience, so I could share it with students who give up on themselves so quickly, so they could experience the thrill of success from not quitting,” she said. “And when Ben decided to tutor other students in writing, I was proud to see him share his understanding of struggle with his peers. It was no surprise he was valedictorian and was knighted. He’s one exceptional guy that BHS is proud to call one of its own.”