Vaught's Views: Shannon Miller's perseverance now paying off

November 03, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

If you don't believe in perseverance and competing for the pure love of a sport, then stop reading. This column will not be for you.

If you like a success story and knowing what competing for the right reasons can do for a young athlete, then keep reading.

Shannon Miller was a talented athlete during her Boyle County High School career. She played soccer and ran track before also adding cross country to her resume her senior year.

She was not the best runner Boyle has ever had. She might not have even been the best during her career. However, her love for running and competing has helped her emerge as a successful college runner.


Miller is now a junior at Eastern Kentucky University. She has been on the track team the last two years and this is her third season running cross country as a non-scholarship athlete. Translation: She pays her own way to school without any athletic financial assistance.

Second team all-OVC

Last weekend at the Ohio Valley Conference Cross Country Championship, Miller placed 14th out of 73 entries to earn second team all-OVC honors. She helped the Colonels place second in the team competition with her finish of 19 minutes, 35.27 seconds for the 3.1-mile course.

If that wasn't enough to put a smile on her face, what happened after the race certainly did.

"After the meet her coach, Rick Erdmann, told us Shannon would be on scholarship, probably starting in January," said Tom Miller, Shannon's father. "We have always told our children to play sports for the love of the sport and not just to receive a scholarship."

Don't believe him? You should because his oldest son, Matt, walked away from his scholarship on the Eastern football team earlier this season because his heart no longer was in football. Instead, he's working and paying his own way to school this year and learning what life as a normal college student is like.

Obviously, her brother's success overshadowed her in high school. He was a talented receiver on Boyle's state championship football teams. Not that she complained, but her exploits in soccer and track simply did not generate the same type of recognition. Even now her younger brother, Josh, probably receives more notoriety for his football exploits at Boyle than she did.

Her start in cross country

However, rather than complain, Shannon Miller persevered, even if her cross country career perhaps started by accident.

Before her senior year at Boyle, her parents thought they were taking her to a track camp at Murray State University. Instead, it turned out to be a cross country camp.

"You can imagine her surprise when we got there," Tom Miller said. "Shannon chose to stay and loved it so much that she ran cross country for the first time her senior year."

Boyle athletics director Jim Spears was the track coach then. He remembers the success she had running the 400-meter dash and 800-meter runs her senior year as well as the 1,600- and 3,200-meter relays.

"I remember encouraging her to run cross country, but she was doing soccer at the same time and that made it hard," Spears said. "I really don't remember what finally peaked her interest in cross country, but it certainly helped her in track."

Her father fondly remembers her cross country routine at Boyle.

"Her practice routine was basically showing up at cross country meets and running three miles," he said. "She's come a long way."

She has and by doing so, she's shown what dedication and a love for competition can do for any athlete. Going on scholarship is a nice reward for what she's done, but the even bigger story here is the way she worked to become the success she has.

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