Hannah Miller going extra mile in US
A little less determination, a little less single-mindedness and Southland runner Hannah Miller might never have made a success of athletics, let alone be preparing for another top season in the United States college system.
When the 19-year-old looks back at her early running years, her memories lack a golden tinge.
Despite progressing quickly through the provincial ranks, at national level she was usually good enough to be in the top five, maybe even to be on the podium, but titles were elusive.
“I always loved it and that was the time that Greer Alsop and Charlotte Muschamp (both Washington State University) were going overseas for jumping, so that put it into my head that if you were good enough you could go to the States and get to college. That was always the dream goal, but I never knew if I’d be good enough,” Miller said.
“Training-wise I was always progressing upwards...I was in the conversation but never won a championship. There were a lot of times when I questioned whether I was good enough to do this, but there was a lot of persistence and belief in the end goal. Before I left for America, this time last year, I had the national cross country in Auckland and that was the first major New Zealand title I won. It was nice to finally break through.”
Much of the credit has to go to her supportive family, coach Lance Smith and the development she underwent with the Academy Southland programme.
“I think it was about believing in myself fully. I’ve always had those mental skills, but it was finally implementing them. I was at the stage where someone had to win so I asked myself ‘why couldn’t it be me?’, sort of thing.”
Miller has completed her freshman year at Dallas’ Southern Methodist University, where she will soon be joined by Southland triple jumper Atipa Mabonga.
Season highlights include qualification for the World University Games in Taiwan at the end of August, her major international debut, following the Oceania championships in Fiji at the end of this month.
“It’s kind of ridiculous. On the start line for the cross country this year - my team didn’t qualify, but I qualified as an individual - and it’s quite intimidating looking down the start line and they announce that so-and-so went to Rio for steeplechase. It gets real,” Miller, who will major in journalism and international politics, said.
“You’ve got to think to yourself that we are all college athletes. They may have that experience, but you just take it and use it. It’s awesome to be racing that level of talent and that will be me by the end of my college experience.”
Having settled on the 5000m and 10km events as her strongest suits on the track, Miller has set her sights on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Financially she is looking for backers who are willing to support her towards that goal, in amongst a successful return home which saw her claim the national under 20 half marathon title at the weekend, along with the under 20 women’s course record and a second place finish overall behind Wellington’s Ruby Muir, a multiple Kepler Challenge winner.
“I’d like to make national NCAA champs because that’s a really big competition, pretty much all the best athletes in the world are there. If I can do that for the next two years at college I’ll be looking at World Uni Games again and then the end goal is qualifying for Tokyo,” she said.
“I think the way training is progressing and my times are dropping, I just need to trust in the process, trust in my coaches and everyone who is behind me.”