Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
WHEELERSBURG — When Libby Miller entered high school, she was bound and determined she’d never run track again.
But life had other plans.
Wheelersburg’s senior two-sport star, at the time, was focused on soccer … a sport she’s had success in since she was old enough to have a ball at her feet. However, last spring, she ended up at a track practice and, from there, fate switched into the driver’s seat.
“I’d always been asked to run track but I had never really desired to. Then, junior year, somehow I ended up at a practice and I really liked the team and the idea of it,” Miller said. “I fell in love with, not only the sport, but the feeling you get when running and the team I run with. I always say I regret not running because it’s ended up being such a fun, important time in my high school career, and the friendships I’ve made are irreplaceable.”
This weekend, Miller will have one last hurrah for the Pirates at the OHSAA Track and Field State Championships — her second consecutive trip to the event. She’ll be competing in the 100-meter dash and both the 4×200- and 4×100-meter relays.
Considering the fact that not too long ago, she was convinced she’d never run track in high school, her presence in Columbus is remarkable to say the least.
“I am always so excited to go anywhere and compete with the great group of girls in both the 4×100 and 4×200. So I’m super excited to see what we can do at state with those two races,” Miller said. “With that being said, I’m also so excited to be able to compete at this level in an individual race. The 100 dash is such a fun, fast, and exciting race, and I can’t wait to be able to race with girls at such a high level.”
Last season, Miller helped the Pirates’ 4×100 relay reach Columbus and finish eighth in the state with a finish time of 51.16 seconds. This year, she’ll be helping the same group — made up of Gabby Deacon, Lani Irwin and Lauren Jolly — to try and better that podium finish.
In the 4×200 relay, she joins Irwin, Jolly and Alyssa Dingus. That quartet has broken record after record while riding a torrid pace into the state meet.
“Both races, the 4×100 and 4×200, have something special about them. The 4×1 is what got us to state last year and set our bar high for ourselves in everything we run,” Miller said. “The 4×2 is special because it was our race at the beginning of last year. It’s special to us that we work hard to continue to bring its time down and get it to its best possible race while hopefully continuing to break our own records in both as we go.”
In last week’s Division III regional meet, Wheelersburg won the 4×200 relay with a finish time of 1:47.18. In the 4×100 relay, the Pirates carved out a second place finish at 50.36 — .05 seconds behind the winner.
Miller placed fourth individually in the 100 dash with a mark of 12.68 seconds.
To better all of those times, or to better eventual finishes, Miller believes that repeating a successful process will elevate her to new heights. In fact, she repeats everything she’s ever done before a race — or a soccer game for that matter — with careful precision.
“Ask anybody and they’ll tell you I’m the most superstitious person ever,” Miller said, laughing. “I eat the same thing on meet days and game days, and I say the same things to the girls. On the way to regionals, both times we stopped at the same gas station. I always think the same things, like not to jump the gun, and I stretch my hamstrings before my open events. I also keep in mind to run all the way through the line in every race since I always cross the finish line. I do the same warmup every meet day and do not switch a thing. I’ve always been that way and I’m not sure that will ever change.”
Whatever works, works. That process hasn’t let her down yet.
Neither has her hometown and community.
As she enters the final weekend of her high school career, Miller took time to thank those who have cheered for her over the past four years. They’ll be the same group cheering for her when she arrives at Georgetown (Ky.) College to play soccer and run track this fall.
“It’s hard to put into words what this community means. I’ve been at Wheelersburg since day one and have been raised by this great community. Being a part of multiple sports, I’ve had the great opportunity to see the support that high school sports and academics get from this community,” Miller said. “My teammates have always meant the world to me, from soccer to track. I’ve made amazing friendships that I wouldn’t have without sports. Our coaches push us to be nothing but great in absolutely everything, from a simple sprint in practice to a game or meet. I truly believe that is why Wheelersburg is so successful.”
Miller’s first event, the 100 dash preliminaries, is scheduled for 10:20 a.m., Friday. She’ll have a quick turnaround, running the 4×200 relay at 10:30 with the 4×100 relay to follow at 10:50.
Then, hopefully, she’ll be competing in Saturday’s finals.
“This weekend, my goal, as well as my team’s goal, is to bring back something special to Wheelersburg,” Miller said. “I’m excited to go up with the girls this weekend and end my high school athletic career with some of my closest friends before moving on to college sports.”