West Chester Rustin’s Maddie Miller, the 2022 Daily Local News Girls Track Athlete of the Year, finished her track season at an absolute peak, winning a trio of medals on the final day of the PIAA 3A Track & Field Championships at Shippensburg University May 28.
Miller won medals for the 800-meter run, the 4×400 relay, and most spectacularly, the 4×800 relay, which finished first. She anchored the victorious 4×800-meter relay, and when she took the baton, Rustin was in eighth place in the race. Miller, now a rising junior at Rustin, flashed past seven runners to win the top prize.
“My most vivid memory of that relay was the last straightaway,” said Miller. “Most of the race I was focused on catching the other teams ahead of me. I honestly wasn’t sure that I would be able to catch the girls out in front because they were so far ahead.
“I just kept pushing myself and maintaining my pace and eventually in the last 200 meters I realized that first place was attainable. The last straightaway I just gave it my all and hoped that I wasn’t going to run out of steam.
“Seeing my (relay) teammates, Lindsey (Volkman), Hannah (Betchyk) and Brianna (Ambrosine), after the race was the best part because it was such an exciting moment. We really did not expect to get first place, so it made the win even better.”
Rustin girls track coach Jim Collins, who watched Miller finish eighth in the 800 later that day, and saw the Rustin sophomore help the Golden Knights place third in the 4×400 relay, is impressed with how fast Miller has improved in such a short period of time.
“Perhaps the most amazing thing is how quickly Maddie has ascended,” said Collins. “Most of her peers who compete at her level have been running track for a few years, Maddie only started the sport 16 months ago.”
Rustin boys track coach Shaz Brown is impressed with Miller’s rapid improvement too.
“Maddie’s ascent to being one of the top 800 runners in the state is only surprising in how quickly it happened, but her talent is undeniable,” said Brown. “The sky is the limit as far as her potential. I’m still not sure we have even figured out what her best event is yet because she is so versatile, from 400 meters to 1600 meters -– and she was a state qualifier in her first cross country season last fall.”
Currently, Miller holds six school records for outdoor and indoor track – indoor 800 (2:20.34), indoor 4×800, indoor DMR, outdoor 800 (2:12.44), outdoor 4×800, and outdoor 4×400.
Both Brown and Collins mentioned Miller’s exceptional competitive drive.
“Underneath her mild-mannered smile is a fierce competitor,” said Brown. “If Maddie’s anywhere near the front at the end of a race, she’ll find a way to win. When she brought us from eighth to first place in the 4×800 against some of the top 800 runners in the state, that moment was magical and one I’ll never forget as a coach.”
Collins added, “What stands out most about Maddie is that she is a fierce competitor. I believe she probably actually hates losing more than she enjoys winning, which is funny, because her natural demeanor is the exact opposite. She is one of those kids that is always quiet and smiling and is just happy to be doing what she is doing, but when you put her in a race, something switches.”
Miller is an all-around athlete who had previously played field hockey and basketball, before giving track a shot as a freshman.
“I really did not run that much before track, other than when I was at my other sports practices,” said Miller. “My friends and family kept telling me that I should try track, so eventually I decided to give it a shot.”
“Maddie is a great athlete,” said Collins. “I bet if we put her in the high jump, horizontal jumps, or hurdles, she’d work her way to a state level competitor in those events as well.”
Brown said, “The thing that stands out most to me about Maddie is her remarkable consistency — in school, in practice, in the weight room, on weekend runs. She checks all the boxes of what it takes to go from being good to great. Maddie is a straight A student, involved in the school community, and represents all that we want our kids to be when they join our program.”
Last winter, Miller bounced back from a mid-season injury (IT Band Syndrome) to anchor for the 4×800 relay that placed fifth at indoor States. Then at Nationals, she was part of the fifth-place distance medley relay team.
“The challenges I faced during the injury were more mental than physical because I felt like I was missing a key part of the indoor track season,” said Miller. “It was also frustrating because I would take rest and then try to run again and then the pain would come back.
“I (overcame) these challenges with the help of my school athletic trainer, Mr. DePaol, and my coaches. I would go mostly every day after school to work with Mr. Depaol. I did a lot of stretching and strengthening exercises and I did other forms of cardio like the bike or the elliptical to keep up my endurance.”
During this past track season, Miller worked more on speed than endurance.
“My coaches switched me from doing the long distance workouts to the middle distance workouts,” said Miller. “I focused a lot more on my running form, acceleration, and speed. I think this helped me a lot because the 800, in my eyes, is more of a speed-based event.”
Whatever race she runs, Miller is a runner worth watching for the next couple of years at West Chester Rustin.
“I can’t wait to see how much more she is able to progress in the next 2 years,” said Collins.
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