Boyertown’s Miller earns entry to U.S. Naval Academy

BOYERTOWN — Back in his childhood, Boyertown swimming standout Steve Miller thought baseball was definitely his game of choice. Growing up in the Boyertown area, it comes with the territory.

Swimming is, however, also popular around Boyertown and Miller started spending plenty of time in the pool when he was 5. He continued playing baseball and swam through his time at Boyertown Junior East High School. Baseball was still his top choice.

But by the time Miller moved on to Boyertown Senior High School, it occurred to him that he had been more successful in swimming and that he should drop baseball and put all his efforts into swimming.

Not only did Miller grow into the Bears boys team’s top swimmer, but swimming also helped pave the way to his ultimate goal and dream — to move on to the U.S. Naval Academy.

And his dream came true recently with Miller accepting his nomination to U.S, Naval Academy, and headed for Annapolis, Md., in a few short weeks.”I have always dreamed about attending and swimming at the U.S. Naval Academy since deciding in eighth grade to join the Boyertown Area Senior High NJROTC program,’ Miller said.

Actually, that dream had started somewhat earlier during a casual conversation with some relatives.

“I’m really not the one who discovered Naval Academy, ” Miller said. “I was talking to one of my cousins. He started talking about the Naval Academy and that got me looking into it. And the more I looked into it, the more I enjoyed it, the more it felt like it would be the school for me. Since then I’ve been pursuing the Naval Academy.’

He picked a tough one. Precious few make into the Naval Academy.

“It’s real difficult and a long process,’ Miller said. “I think the acceptance rate there is 7 percent. So what you’ve got to do is start the start the application early, get it in early and hope for the best.’

And it takes endurance. But Miller is a long distance freestyler and endurance is something he has had to practice along the way. Not that the complicated process of applying didn’t get the better of him sometimes.

“There were times when it was like, ‘ Is this really worth it?” he admitted. “To do all this paper work, spend all this time filling out over and over. But, obviously, it was worth it for me.’

Along with applying directly to the academy, candidates also need a nomination, preferably from a member of Congress.

“Congressman Jim Gerlach (PA-6th District) nominated me,’ Miller said proudly.

But one doesn’t just walk in and say, will you please nominate me.

“It’s another application process,’ Miller said. “You have to apply for the nomination and to get interviewed. Then go in, have an interview with the board. And the board decides. Everybody then still has to wait a month or two before you find out if you got the nomination.’

Miller, usually very low key and reserved, admitted he was on pins and needles during that long waiting time. But he admitted, he felt like jumping up and down upon receiving the nomination.

He was at his job as a lifeguard at the Boyertown YMCA pool when a Gerlach representative suddenly called.

“I got the call right before my shift, so I had to contain myself a little bit,’ he said.

Miller will certainly arrive in Annapolis with great swimming credentials.

He was the Boyertown boys’ most successful swimmer for the past few years, with the distance freestyle his specialty.

He wrapped up his highly successful high school career a few weeks ago with capturing the District 1-AAA bronze medal in the 200-yard freestyle and also medaled in the 500 free, placing fifth. At the PIAA Championships two weeks later, he advanced to consolation finals in 200 free, placing 12th overall in Class AAA, and 25th in the 500 free. He also played a key role on Boyertown’s successful relay teams. He was named to the Mercury All-Area and the Pioneer Athletic Conference First Team for the past two seasons. Miller capped it all off with yet another great outing at the YMCA Indoor Nationals with his Boyertown Navy Seals YMCA team a month ago.

“High school swimming has made the last four years of high school a lot of fun,’ Miller said. “Where I am now in the sport, I wouldn’t have imagined being at during my freshman year.’

Boyertown High School and Boyertown YMCA coach Linda Jones sure could imagine it while coaching Miller at the YMCA prior to high school.

“Steve is a highly motivated, hard-working athlete,’ Jones said. “His first choice has always been to attend the United States Naval Academy. He has worked very hard academically, in his swim training and within the school’s Junior Naval ROTC program to prepare himself for the rigors of being a successful Midshipman and naval officer. I am thrilled that this opportunity has been offered to him and I am certain he will be successful in the pool and the classroom.’

During the long application process and waiting time, Miller also checked out the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Lewis University, the University of Rochester, and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

He plans to major in mechanical engineering.

“I visited some of those schools, but they were my backup,’ he said. “Lewis was my second choice, and Merchant Marine was my third. But Naval Academy has always been my first choice.’

The Naval Academy just had too much of a hold on Miller.

“I don’t know, it’s just the overall atmosphere,’ Miller said when asked why. “Especially when I went down on the recruiting trip, I really enjoyed myself there, liked everything that was going on.’

A couple of months later the acceptance letter from the Naval Academy arrived, putting his life on track just as he had hoped and dreamed. Come July 1, Miller will check in at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

As for dreams down the road, professionally or otherwise, Miller will think about that later.

“Right now, I’m just glad to be in there,’ he said. “I have no plans as to what I’m going to be. I’ll let the four years I’m there decide that.’

He does know he will join the Midshipmen swim team right away.

“They have a good team,’ Miller said. “At one point last season they were ranked in the Top 25 and I’m just looking forward to joining their team. I know the training will be a little harder, especially accompanied with the additional naval training I will experience. I know the atmosphere will keep me focused and goal-oriented throughout my four years at the academy.’

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