BY LOUIS AMESTOY Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Christine Sonali Merrill is proof that hard work pays off.
The former Bakersfield Christian High School track and field star has qualified for the 2012 Olympics in London as a member of Sri Lanka's team.
Merrill will run the 400-meter hurdles after Sri Lanka, where Merrill's mother is from, granted her a wildcard entry into the Olympics. With that decision, Merrill was able to bypass the Olympic qualifying standard in the race, which she has missed by two-tenths of a second.
A former NCAA Division II champion, Merrill graduated from UC San Diego in 2010 but the UT San Diego notes that Merrill spent her first two years at the La Jolla-based university focusing on education.
"She came to UCSD primarily to focus on the rigorous major of mechanical engineering at Sixth College," reported UT San Diego's Mark Zeigler. "She didn't join the Tritons track team until her second year on campus and was hardly blazing -- clocking a season-best 63.64 seconds in the 400 hurdles."
On her Facebook page, Merrill thanked the Sri Lankan Olympic Committee for the selection.
"A big thank you to Sri Lanka for selecting me as their top female athlete!" she wrote. "And a bigger thank you to all of you who helped me get here!!''
On July 7 Merrill ran 58.42 in the 400 hurdles, but that missed the B qualifying standard for London. She's run a lifetime best of 56.85. The fastest time in the world is 53.40 by Russia's Natalya Antukh.
In 2011, Merrill represented Sri Lanka at the IAAF Track and Field World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. Merrill ran in the first heat in qualifying and finished sixth with a time of 57.05.
Her most notable achievement was a bronze medal in the 400 hurdles at the 2011 Asian Games, where she made a strong run at the end to finish third. She is currently the Sri Lankan national record holder in the 400 hurdles.
As a senior at Bakersfield Christian, Merrill finished second in the 300-meter low hurdles in the CIF-Central Section and placed 13th in the CIF-state meet that year.
Merrill's efforts have also earned her cover stories on a Sri Lankan magazine.
Merrill joins cyclist Jimmy Watkins and wrestler Jake Varner as Bakersfield area Olympians.
Watch her earn her bronze medal at the 2011 Asian Games: