Amanda Miller's Outstanding Kansas Track Career Nearing an End
April 27, 2011
Less than four weeks remain in the academic school year and seniors across campus are trying to soak in every ounce of college life before they make that final walk down Champanile Hill on May 22. Some might try to get one last slice of Pyramid pizza, take one more walk across KU’s beautiful campus or maybe have one final round at The Wheel. These goals, and possibly a few others, are things students in their final year will try to accomplish in these next few weeks. One senior, however, has some different objectives in mind.
“I want to qualify for the NCAA regionals in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters,” said KU senior Amanda Miller of her goals in the last month of her KU career.
A four-year distance runner for the University of Kansas, Amanda Miller has always had lofty aspirations, and it is no different right now, even when a little senioritis may be kicking in. Right now, Miller’s priorities mostly lay with Kansas track and field and with her running career, and it has been that way for nearly eight years now.
For most KU students the idea of walking up the Hill to class is a troubling thought, much less running for 5,000 or 10,000 meters at a near sprint pace. But for Miller, running has turned into something she looks forward to everyday. It has turned into more than just a way to stay in shape, it has turned into her life.
“Running was something kind of new and fun for me,” Miller explained of how running first sparked her interest. “It was something I really started to excel in so I decided to go with that.”
Miller came to Kansas from just down K-10 in Overland Park, Kan. She attended OlatheEastHigh School where she excelled in not only cross country and track, but in soccer and basketball as well. She received numerous all-district, all-metro and all-state honors for her impressive accomplishments in each sport. When she first joined the cross country and track teams her freshman year, she says she only did it as a way to stay in shape for soccer. It quickly turned into something more. She was the runner-up at the 2005 6A State Cross Country meet and was also part of the second-place team that year. She holds the Olathe East cross country records in the two mile, 4K and 5K and is also the Olathe East record holder in the 1,600 meters. Miller quickly found that it wasn’t a future in soccer or basketball she should pursue, but it was in cross country and track where she would really shine.
Miller’s accomplishments in high school quickly turned the heads of college coaches from around the Midwest. She was a popular recruit, getting letters weekly from programs located across the state and the region. In the end though, Miller knew that the best place for her would be the school that was closest to her family.
“I kind of wanted to stay close to home,” Miller said of how she finally settled on KU. “My sister was in high school and I wanted to be involved with the things going on in her life. Being close to home was important to me. KU was just a great fit. I got along with the girls on the team really well and I really liked all the coaches.”
After arriving in Lawrence in the fall of 2007, Miller quickly made an impact for the Jayhawks. She contributed to the scoring effort in five of the six meets she ran for the cross country team her freshman year and would go on to be KU’s No. 2 finisher in all six meets her sophomore year. On the track she quickly cracked the school record books with the fourth-fastest 5,000 meter time in KU history and notched seven top-10 finishes her freshman and sophomore years. Those accomplishments were just a prelude to what she would accomplish her junior and senior years.
In one of the first meets of the 2010 indoor track season, she broke the school record in the 5,000 meters with an eye-popping time of 16:27.03, besting the previous record by nearly six seconds. After all her fantastic performances while at KU, Miller says that particular race has been her favorite memory.
“When I broke the indoor record in the 5,000 meters at IowaState, it was kind of a breakthrough race for me,” said Miller of the memorable performance. “I didn’t really know it was going to happen but it all came together for me. That’s one memory that really sticks out.”
She would go on to notch several more high finishes in the 2010 season, including a first-place finish in front of the home crowd at the Kansas Relays in the 3,000 meters. After closing out the season, KU’s distance coach Mike Whittlesey approached Miller about being a captain for 2011’s track team. Miller didn’t hesitate. She has embraced the role and has become a leader for the distance runners on and off the track.
“Being the leader for cross country and for our group here with the track team, I feel a lot of girls are looking to me for answers,” said Miller. “If they’re not performing well I’m expected to talk to them and help them out because I’ve been there. I’ve had bad work-outs. I’ve had bad races. I just want to be that person they can talk to and relate to.”
She has helped form an atmosphere of closeness and comradery between her teammates. Every race, whether she is running or not, Miller is cheering on her fellow Jayhawks. She is rooting them on not only as a teammate but as a friend too. Miller says the bonds she has formed among the track team have been easy to create due to the fact that she sees the other runners on a daily basis.
“We’re together everyday. I see my teammates more than I see my roommates. They’re my best friends. You not only want them to do well because they’re your teammate, but because they’re your friends too,” Miller said.
Miller has embraced her leadership role this season, but she had some help from a former Jayhawk. Lauren Bonds, a stand-out runner for Kansas from 2006-10, was that type of mentor for Miller in her preparation of taking over the captain role this season.
“Lauren (Bonds) was a really good role model for me last year,” Miller explained. “She set the tone for the team and she really showed me what my role has had to be with the team this year.”
With the tireless hours she spends on the track, it’s hard to see how she has time for her school work, but it just so happens she is an exceptional student. A four-time Academic All-Big 12 selection, Miller has earned top grades on her way to earning a bachelor’s degree in business, which she will take home in May. She has even managed to find a job after she leaves KU, working for Branded Custom Sportswear in Kansas City.
In all her success, there is bound to be adversity, and Miller got her first taste of it during her final cross country season this past fall. A stress fracture in her foot nagged her for nearly the entire season and even hampered her in the indoor track season. The injury was a blow for Miller but she was not about to feel sorry for herself.
“It was one of those things that I knew I was in the shape that I needed to be in to be successful, but it was frustrating,” Miller explained. “Coming off the injury I was just trying to stay positive because being negative wasn’t going to help me get better any faster.”
It is that attitude which has helped elevate Miller to elite status on every cross-country and track team she has been on, going as far back as high school. The tireless work ethic and positive attitude that every distance runner needs in order to be successful, but also a passion for running, which Miller exhibits everyday. To give you an idea of how much she loves the sport, when asked what she likes to do in her downtime, she paused and thought for awhile before answering.
“Running I guess,” said Miller. “I really don’t have any downtime, but when I do I usually run. I think if I have downtime next year I’ll probably just run.”