This is a picture of me and my best friend, Merri Lightbody, that was taken last year at our high school water polo banquet. If you can’t tell here, I used to be a lot bigger and overall looked really different than I do today. I’d like to thank my dear friend Merri for initiating my transformation. With her constant motivating me to try my best and work hard, I began to lose some weight. But she didn’t only physically help change me for the better; she helped me change mentally as well. Last year, she helped change me, a shy, quiet, awkward freshman, into the more talkative and positive person I am now. Now, most of the time she can’t get me to shut up.
Merri has been our water polo team captain for two years now. Sometimes, people abuse their power over people, but Merri never did this. She may have been the only senior with a lot more experience that the rest of us on our team, but she never acted like she was better than any of us. She made us feel like we were no different than her.
But Merri soon became more than a teammate to me; she became my friend. We bonded over our love of Taylor Swift and country music stars, as well as our love of Disney movies and, of course, our team and our sport.
This picture was taken on Merri’s 18th birthday, which happened to fall on the day of our last league water polo game together. I made her this scrapbook of “18 Reasons Why You’re Awesome” and I could tell in her eyes she really liked it. Some of the reasons I included were that she was a great friend, she always supports those she cares about, and that she gives great hugs.
Another thing I would like to thank her for is that she really made our team a family. She brought to the table that we were all sisters by sport, under the name of water polo. I remember last year, our team wasn’t close at all, with many girls bickering and a lot of problems overall. But this year was different. We had a few new, inexperienced girls who just came to have fun, and that’s what I believe teams are all about. This came into play with our innovation project; lots of our girls used our hashtag to share their love for their sisters and family.
I’ll remember the night this picture was taken forever. It was a dark, cold Tuesday night at Newport Harbor High School. Our team went into the game with our heads held high. This would be our last game with our beloved senior, it being both “Senior Night” and Merri’s 18th birthday on the same day. We were up against the Marina Vikings, one of the less experienced teams in our league. We went into the pool determined to try our hardest, and we did exactly that. We may not have won the game, but none of us cared. All of us were focused on making the game memorable, which I believe we accomplished. Being the emotional teen I am, I began to get teary-eyed, filled with both emotions of joy and sadness.
I soon came to see the different sides of Merri. There is the serious Merri that usually comes out during games, but goes into hibernation after. Then there’s the nice Merri, who welcomes everyone who comes on the pool deck with a bright smile across her face. There’s also sassy Merri, who our coach called the “Sass Master,” especially when Meri tried to negotiate to minimize our sprint sets. But there’s my favorite side to Merri too; the all-around goofy Merri where every word that comes out of her mouth either A. makes everyone crack up and laugh hysterically or B. makes no sense at all, but we laugh anyway. This picture was taken when Merri came to one of our high school swim meets to support us. On the right is our freshman goalie who, during polo season, we called the “Sass Master in Training” or “Mini Sass Master,” because she would also try to negotiate her way out of doing our sprint sets every single day.
This picture was taken the day of the Innovation Project that Merri, Kyla and I did. This is part of the legacy I believe Merri will leave behind with our team; she helped us grow and tried her best to do away with some of the misconceptions that many have about water polo. She helped the word that water polo girls are not scary; we don’t punch each other just for the heck of it, no one bites you, and you don’t come out of games bloody. She made the rest of the school notice our team and take us seriously. I remember we had ASB come to one of our games this year and they were cheering for us, creating our own personal “Loud Crowd” at the pool. We lost that game 8-7 against El Rancho, but the fact that we had others, whom probably had never seen a polo game before, cheering for us helped us to keep going and not lose hope.
This is from our polo banquet this year. Merri may be starting a new chapter in her life, but so is our friendship. Even though she is graduating this year and I won’t ever play a league game of polo beside her again, I know that she will always be a part of our team, not only to support our school motto “Baron for Life,” but because the pool deck is her home. And family is always welcome to come back home.