OMAHA, Neb. -- Eva Merrell came to the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials best known for her butterfly.

After her performance Friday, the 16-year-old with the Aquazot club will be known for her butterfly and backstroke.

The Newport Beach resident advanced to the semifinals of the 200-meter backstroke before missing the finals set for Saturday night by just one spot.

Merrell started Friday with a lifetime-time 2:13.55 in the event and ended the day with a Southern California Swimming record 2:10.21 in the 15-16 age-group.

The time also ranks Merrell sixth all-time in the 15-16 age-group nationally.

"I love 2-back," Merrell said Friday at the CenturyLink Center. "It was kind of my best event when I was grouping up, surprisingly, but then I kind of came into fly. So now, I have a couple favorite events."

Merrell also reached the semifinals of the 100 butterfly, placing 11th.

Merrell hails from the same state -- Colorado -- with the world's best 200 backstroker and one of her role models: defending Olympic champion Missy Franklin.

"I raced (Franklin) in December in the 50 free and we hugged at the end of my race," said Merrell, who was born in Longmont, Colo. "All of my friends texted me afterward and were, 'You hugged Missy Franklin!' It was cool"

Merrell, who raced for Corona del Mar as a freshman, said she has been impressed how Franklin has handled adversity this week such as failing to qualify for Rio in the 100 back.

"I think she is amazing," Merrell said. "Her grace through everything is incredible."


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