Runners To Watch: Nikki Merrill, Portsmouth

During the next few weeks leading up to the beginning of the cross-country season, MileSplit RI will highlight some of our top returning runners this fall. We graduated some outstanding harriers from last year, but we still have an impressive list of talent coming back this season with hopes of making their marks on the dirt trails. 

The versatile Merrill is primarily a middle-distance runner, but has proven nearly as effective when the race is longer. The Patriot standout enjoyed her second season on the cross-country trails last year. She finished third in the Championship Race of the Ocean State Invitational and was a runner-up to three-time titlist Ellie Lawler (South Kingstown) at the Class B and State Meets. Merrill excelled during the post-season, too. She placed third at the New England Championships and earned a trip to the Nike Cross Nationals (NXN) in Seattle by placing fifth overall at the NXN-Northeast Regionals. Merrill, who is a multiple all-state and New England champion in events ranging from the 600m to the two mile, knows how to perform in big-time meets. She ran a a near state mark of 1:31.79 to capture her second straight New England 600m title and was a runner-up at the indoor nationals for 800m where she ran an all-time best of 2:07.27. We're giving Merrill the nod here for favorite status at the State Meet and a return trip to the nationals. If it's a close one at states, her speed will be tough to contend with from her rivals in the closing stages.