WEST ORANGE, NJ - Nerissa Santa Cruz is a bubbly fifteen year old heading into her sophomore year at West Orange High School. She's also heading to Indiana University on July 27 to compete in the 2014 YMCA Long Course National Championships.
Tap Into West Orange caught up with Nerissa while she was volunteering earlier this week at the Holy Trinity-West Orange Food Pantry.
Nerissa will compete in the 100 Meter Butterfly. To qualify for the Nationals, she needed a time of 1:08:89, and she did so in her last try with 1:07:88.
"I was so happy," said Nerissa. "I jumped out of the pool screaming!"
Nerissa trains at the Montclair YMCA along with her brother Nick, who is also an outstanding swimmer. Nick was featured as a Tap Into West Orange Athlete of the Week back in January, 2014.
It's a rigorous year-round training schedule. Nerissa trains from 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm each day after school during the school year and from 6:00 am - 8:00 during the summer. It doesn't leave time for much else, but Nerissa is also a very good student and works hard on her academics.
"I would be so excited to win the YMCA National, but my goal this year was to just to qualify," Nerissa explained.
"I have a three year plan to make it into the USA Junior Nationals, which is what you move on to after the YMCA Nationals," she continued. "My plan is to get a scholarship to swim at a D-1 college."
West Orange may very well be looking at their next Ginny Duenkel, the 1964 Olympic Gold and Bronze medal winner in the 400 meter freestyle and 100 meter backstroke.