Miller focused on next step, NCAA title hopes

first_imgYou’ve always got to focus on the next step ahead. Whether treading the icy sidewalks of Madison or life’s winding paths, if you glance too far ahead and neglect where you are, you could very well lose your footing.Senior University of Wisconsin distance runner Craig Miller knows this. And that’s why it’s all he thinks about during his races.Just this past weekend, Miller set the No. 2 national mark at the Wisconsin Elite Invitational, running an NCAA qualifying 4:00.78 mile time. Miller is looking to use this time to push himself to run harder and faster in the upcoming indoor season and become NCAA National Champion, after he was runner-up in the mile last year.Since his freshman season, he has been at the top of his sport, earning six track and field All-America honors — two in each year — competing in the mile, the 1500-meter and the distance relay.Even though the coaches say Miller would like to improve on his No. 2 national standing in the mile, Miller is looking to widen his potential and experiment with the 3000m race this year.“I run the 1500m outdoors, mile indoors for the last few years, and I’ve tried to expand on running a little bit,” he said. “If it doesn’t work I can always go back to the mile. But that’s my main goal, I want to win the [NCAA National] indoor 3K; and outdoor, I’ll try to do the 1500, and I’ll place well in that.”Cross country head coach and track and field assistant coach Mick Byrne thinks Miller can excel at any of these lengths and knows he will help the team in whatever he runs.“He’s wants to move up and experiment with the 3000 m this year,” Byrne said. “It requires a little bit more strength, and he has the speed to go with that strength; it’s just a challenge for him.“When it comes to the Big Ten Championships and NCAA Championships, he’ll fit into wherever we feel comfortable in terms of scoring points.”The coaches know he’ll score well not only because he has in the past, but also because they see his work ethic and understand how competitive Miller is.“When you have a motivated athlete, you don’t need to challenge him, he challenges himself,” track and field head coach Ed Nuttycombe said. “You can help him and give him guidance, but we don’t need to challenge him. He’s his own critic and own motivator and his own everything, and that’s what makes those guys special.”Byrne has been working closely with Miller since they’ve been together and is always impressed by Miller’s character, as well as his running skills.Miller has been running 90-100 miles a week (13-14 miles a day) in addition to working out with the team every day.“He works very hard, obviously,” Byrne said. “He’s a tough, tough competitor, but he’s just a tough kid. When he goes into a race, he goes in to win. He’s not daunted by the competition or who’s in the race. He’s pretty confident every time he goes to the line.”As a runner, Byrne said that Miller is extremely strong with high endurance, but what sets him apart is his leg speed.Leg speed is exactly what it sounds like, and Miller is able to put one foot in front of the other much faster than his competitors and is able to achieve a top speed that others aren’t. Miller is able to adapt much quicker and more effectively from his long miles in training to his one-mile or 3000m race, giving him the speed others don’t have.“We’re always working on the strength and keeping his legs fresh and turning over,” Byrne said. “Where other guys have to work a little harder on shorter intervals to get faster, he just has that pure instinct. Pure, natural speed.”Contrary to one’s intuition in distance running, Miller says he doesn’t have the luxury to focus on the next 100m, 10m or even 10 feet.“I’m focusing in on exactly the next step ahead and exactly what I’m doing in that given point. It’s kind of tough because you have to relax and concentrate on what you’re doing at the same time, they kind of go against each other.”Miller does have the luxury to look ahead to the next step in his career, though, and because this is Miller’s senior year, he’s looking to use this season to catapult him into a professional running career in the years to come.“Byrne sat me down in September and we had a discussion about post-college running and what I needed to do to get there,” Miller said. “That’s what’s motivating me the most right now.”In terms of a professional career, Miller says there are many opportunities outside the obvious Olympics and World Championships that he is also working towards.“There’s a lot of meets over in Europe that pay you money to race and run well,” he said. “There’s a lot of running and athletic shoe companies — Nike, Adidas, New Balance — all those guys give you money and give you gear to run professionally for them.“You’re not going to make millions of dollars. It depends how fast you are, but you can make $50,000 a year. Coming right out of college, I could make $20,000.”The coaches see no false hubris in his goals.“He has the ability to move to the next level and run professionally,” Nuttycombe said. “I think the opportunity will present itself.”last_img

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