Freshman harrier a Renaissance woman


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Iowa assistant track and field coach Christi Smith said the moment she saw Missy Miller play basketball at Tipton High School, she knew she was fit to be a Hawkeye.

Smith, a multi-event coach, said watching Miller play on the hardwood rather than run helped her evaluate Miller’s all-around athleticism.

“After watching one of her junior-year basketball games, that was it for me,” Smith said. “I was able to see her talent level, agility, vertical, and that she is a tenacious competitor.”

Such characteristics are crucial for any trackster competing in the pentathlon during indoor track season and the heptathlon during the outdoor season.

Because athletes are required to specialize in up to seven different events, the second-year coach said Miller has the most difficult and demanding job on both the track and the field.

Miller, whose high school did not offer pentathlon or heptathlon, graduated from Tipton as a hurdle and high-jump specialist. She was also a basketball and softball player, and she ran cross-country.

At Iowa, she is attempting to master the hurdles, shot put, long jump, 800-meter run, 200-meter run, javelin, and high jump — many of which are new to her.

After the Hawkeyes lost their only multi-event woman last year to graduation, Iowa distance coach Layne Anderson said the team needed to “fill in the gaps.” He is confident Miller can do so — even if she has to do it alone.

“I either work out by myself or with the men multi-event team,” the freshman said. “I would give anything to have somebody to train with. We have a few recruits coming to visit soon, so I’m crossing my fingers for next year.”

Competing in these events for the first time is difficult, she said — especially starting out at the Division-I level against more experienced athletes.

The Jack Johnson Classic in Minneapolis on Jan. 22-23 was her first chance to show what the past few months of intensive training have done for her.

Despite being nervous about her first collegiate meet, which included competitors from three-time defending Big Ten champion Minnesota, she finished eighth for the Hawkeyes in the pentathlon.

It stood as an impressive feat, Miller said, because her knee still hasn’t fully healed from a ACL surgery she underwent last year.

During high school, she tore her ACL twice, which kept her from participating during her sophomore and senior track seasons.

Yet with those setbacks, her high-school career ended impressively enough and ensured her a scholarship spot at Iowa. In her first three track seasons, she won a combined total of four gold medals and seven others in the state competition.

Smith said the ACL tears led to her questioning her decision to ultimately make Miller part of the “Hawkeye family.” She noted that Miller competed in a cross-country championship meet with the injury, which spoke to her level of dedication and perseverance.

“That race says it all about Missy Miller,” Smith said. “She really gives 100 percent and finishes what she starts. That’s something you can’t coach.”

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