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P.O. Female Athlete of the Week: Celina Merchant

After four years of athletic excellence in Southern Fulton, Celina Merchant, like many other seniors, is sad to see the year coming to an end.

But unlike most seniors, Merchant has her eyes on a few more medals to add to her collection.

Merchant heads to her final District 5 track & field meet this week after already donning the title as one of the most decorated Southern Fulton athletes ever.

"She could hold her arms up and they would be full of gold medals," Southern Fulton coach Heather Gordon said. "She's an overall athlete, there's no other way to describe it."

This season, Merchant has come home from all but one track & field meet with at least a first- or second-place finish in the hurdles, and last week she claimed two golds at the Inter-County Conference Championships with a finish in the 300 hurdles (49.15) that put her back on top as the Franklin-Fulton leader in the event.

Merchant is the Public Opinion Female Athlete of the Week.

"For being in a District 5 Class A school, it's hard to get your name out there, but she's done that," Gordon said. "She is showing everyone that we are not as small as we are, and it's nice to see that a District 5 runner can succeed and run with the big dogs.

"She knows this is her last chance to come out on top, and she's counting down the days left, so come districts and hopefully states, she will be ready to go."

"It is very heartbreaking to think it's all coming to an end," Merchant said. "It's really crazy thinking I only have one meet left, but I have to give it my all."

At districts, Merchant hopes to break the Southern Fulton school record in the 100 hurdles and win the 300. She already has two Indian records, in the long jump and the 300 hurdles, which she set as a freshman and sophomore, respectively.

"She is just a versatile track athlete," Gordon said. "She can almost do anything, anywhere top three in any events that we have."

Merchant's father Michael is an assistant coach on the team and is a big factor in her continued success.

"He has been coaching for a very long time and when I was growing up, he always told me to start young and be the best that I could be," Merchant said.

Michael has even encouraged Merchant to expand her track & field talents and follow in his footsteps of competing in heptathlons.

"My dad has been looking for some events to get me into," Merchant said. "I think it would be cool to do all at once and see what I could do in all of them. Me and Dad have worked on it before and it's really different from running, that's for sure."

Celina Merchant, Southern Fulton 

Sport: Track & field

Grade: Senior

Events: Hurdles, long jump, 4x400 relay, high jump

Parents: Brandy and Michael Merchant

Other interests: She also plays basketball for Southern Fulton, and formerly played volleyball and ran cross country ... She also does crossfit in the summer.

Surprising fact: She is interested in competing in heptathlons, and while she does not throw the shot put as an event for Southern Fulton, she has tried it, and threw 29-0. 

Favorite team: Baltimore Orioles

Statistics: Merchant took first place in the 100 and 300 hurdles, and anchored the winning 4x400 relay at the Inter-County Conference Championships last week ... She reclaimed her spot as the top 300 hurdler in Franklin and Fulton counties with a 49.15 finish, besting the former top finish in the 300 hurdles by three-tenths of a second ... She has consistently been one of the area's top hurdlers, claiming at least a second place finish in all but one meet this season.