By Kevin Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS - Nick Merutka won two district goalkeeper of the year honors and set three Harker Heights school records for saves. Still, Mary Hardin-Baylor head soccer coach Brad Bankhead and the Cru soccer team had to convince the Knights' senior goalie to not hang up his gear.
"I had initially looked into the school. I had applied and got accepted, but it was just in the back of my mind as I looked for other places because and I didn't know if I wanted to play soccer, honestly," Merutka said. "Then (UMHB head soccer coach Bankhead) talked to me and I said, 'Maybe I can do it.' And, I practiced with them and it was a good feeling."
After making such an integral and lasting impression in just two years at Harker Heights, Merutka committed to play for the Cru on Monday morning at a ceremony in the Harker Heights cafeteria.
Merutka, who moved from Virginia prior to his junior season, owns Heights' single-game, single-season and career saves records and was twice voted the District 12-5A most valuable goalie.
"His reaction time, reaction speed," Heights soccer coach Jared Cruddas said of Merutka's initial impression. "It's unbelievable how his body bends and he can get to a ball most teenagers could not reach. Decision-making - it's rare that you get a goalie that moves into the area that understands the game."
Merutka set the Knights single game saves record with 19 against A&M Consolidated on March 24. He had 231 saves in his two-year career at Heights, including 164 as a senior to help lead the Knights to their second straight postseason.
Heights swimmers Bean, Lee also moving on
Seniors Taylor Bean and Daniel Lee left their names on the Harker Heights swimming record board, but now it's time to move on.
Bean signed with McMurry University while Lee is branching out, opting to swim at Hood College in Frederick, Md.
"Actually, it was Taylor that got me introduced to the college. And I decided to see what it was like," Lee said. "It's a really nice school. It's small, liberal arts, good education program, which is what I want to do."
Swimming, he expects, will help him adjust to the dramatic turn his life is about to make. But family will also be a major part.
The son of military parents, Lee was not restricted on his locale choice, he only preferred he had family in the area consistently.
"So I decided to go to a college that had family by or that my family would constantly be by," Lee said. "My grandmother's niece (is in the area) and my parents will probably be transferred there next year."
Bean was attracted to McMurry because of the Warhawks' highly recognized and respected coach, Bev Ball.
"She's probably one of the big reasons why I'm going ... because of how she cares for her swimmers," Bean said.
Bean will not be the only Killeen-area swimmer to experience the War Hawks' jump from Division III to Division II next season. Last week, Killeen High swimmer Craig Bell also signed with McMurry and also credited Ball as playing an important part in that decision.
"One day I just got a call from the coach and she asked, 'You want to come visit?' So I did, and when I got onto campus, I loved it," Bean said. "I think it's a great opportunity because not only will I be able to have fun swimming, but I'll be earning scholarships so I can help pay for college."
Bean finished second in the 100-yard breaststroke at the District 12-5A meet, setting a school record with his 1 minute, 3.14-second time. He placed fifth in the 200 individual medley (2:07.67). He also helped the 200 medley and freestyle relays finish fourth and fifth, respectively.
Lee swam the second leg of the Knights' first-place 400 freestyle relay, which set a school record of 3:22.49 also at the district meet. He, too, was on the 200-yard freestyle relay. Individually, he finished fifth in the 500 freestyle and sixth in the 100 backstroke.