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La Jolla senior pulling double duty this winter

Yuen splits her time in the water

Afternoons for Merry Yuen are, to put it gently, a bit hectic.

On a typical weekday, the La Jolla High School senior goes from class straight to the pool for water polo practice from 1:30 to 3:45 p.m., then jumps in her car and heads to Mission Bay for rowing workouts from 4 to 6:30.

As a member of both the girls’ water polo team at La Jolla High and a crew team at the San Diego Rowing Club during the winter season, she’s pulling double duty.

“It’s impressive,” La Jolla girls’ water polo coach Dante Laghetto said. “She’s fully committed to both sports and her academics - and she has a great social life and family life. She’s able to balance it all.”

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Yuen, an attacker for the Vikings, started playing water polo as a freshman and is in her second season on the varsity team. She said she had always wanted to row as well, but never had the time until this fall, when she felt her academic schedule was light enough to accommodate the extra commitment.

Yuen said she enjoys the challenge of participating in two sports, and believes her new sport has improved her play in the pool.

“I think my rowing helps with water polo, because it works different muscles,” she said.

Yuen rows mostly in a four-person shell, with one oar per person - called “sweep” rowing - but also enjoys rowing in a quad, which is a four-person boat in which each person rows with two oars - called “sculling.”

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Those boats have the potential to go as fast as an eight-person boat, but are easier to operate, she said.

Yuen rowed in a few regattas last fall and is preparing for another in March.

She’s hoping that rowing will help her with the college admissions process. She’d like to continue crew in college – her top choices are UC Berkley, UC Davis and UCLA - and knows that the pool of competitive rowers applying to colleges is significantly smaller than that of water polo players.

“Rowing is in demand at a lot of colleges,” she said.

As far as Laghetto is concerned, he’s happy to excuse Yuen from practice early most days. It doesn’t hurt that she is independent enough to go to the pool on her own on Saturdays for extra workouts.

“She’s able to keep up - her swimming and conditioning are getting better all the time,” Laghetto said. “Her main sport in college will be rowing, so I couldn’t take that away from her.”