A-K Valley athletes of the week: Kiski Area’s Eliza Miller, Freeport’s Isaac Wetzel

Saturday, May 20, 2023 | 4:00 PM

Eliza Miller

Class: Junior

School: Kiski Area

Sport: Track and field

Report card: Miller added to her medal collection Wednesday when she claimed the 800-meter title in 2 minutes, 14.71 seconds at the WPIAL championships at Slippery Rock. The junior also placed sixth in the 1,600 (5:00.76) and will compete at the PIAA meet this week in both events. Also an accomplished cross country runner and swimmer, Miller, the 2022 Valley News Dispatch Athlete of the Year, has committed to compete in triathlon at Duquesne.

How did it feel to win a gold medal at the WPIAL championships?

It was amazing. I was so excited.

What was the key part of that 800 race for you?

I just took it out really fast and led the whole time and tried to finish really strong.

What was your training like leading up to WPIALs?

I just did a lot of speed work, actually. I haven’t been doing much distance. I’ve been doing a lot of sprints on the track. Since it’s (triathlon) season, I’ve been doing a lot of biking so I don’t feel like I need as much distance running as I would in past years.

How does your mindset change between the 800-meter and 1,600-meter races?

For my mile, I’m usually really nervous, but once I get to the 800, I’m just like ‘let’s just see what I can do with it.’ I’m more relaxed for my 800.

What are your goals for the PIAA meet?

There’s a lot of fast girls. I just hope to be in the top groups and hopefully try to get a state medal.

How did you get started in track?

I’ve been running since I was a young age because my mom was good at running. It came naturally, so I said, ‘let’s do it.’ I’m a better endurance runner than I am a sprinter, so doing a little longer running is better for me.

Have you been doing triathlons recently?

I did one a few weeks ago in Richmond, Va. I’m supposed to have one coming up, but I’m gonna scratch that. I’m doing steeplechase at the Night at the Island Race (June 3 on Neville Island).

Why did you decide to commit to Duquesne?

For my club triathlon team, my coach is the head coach for triathlon at Duquesne. Doing triathlon will be a nice change from doing just running and swimming. And the campus is so nice.

What do you want to study?

Something with forensics.

Do you have any superstitions?

I started wearing shin sleeves at the end of cross country, and I’ve been wearing them since. I feel like they make me faster.

Do you listen to any music before races?

Not really. I like talking to the other girls around me. It helps calm my nerves down.

What’s your favorite area restaurant?

I love Noodles & Company.

Do you have a favorite show to stream?

“Jane the Virgin.”

What’s your dream vacation spot?

Anywhere warm. Anywhere there’s a beach.

How about a dream car?

Probably a Subaru STI, the 2006 or 2005 model.

Isaac Wetzel

Class: Senior

School: Freeport

Sport: Track and field

Report card: Wetzel displayed his hurdles prowess at the WPIAL championships Wednesday by winning the Class 2A 300-meter hurdles in 38.9 seconds. He also earned a silver medal in the 110 hurdles in 14.96. He will compete at the PIAA championships Friday and Saturday. Fellow Yellowjackets Michael Braun (3,200) and Reese Skiba (discus) also won WPIAL championships.

How did it feel to win a gold medal at the WPIAL championships?

It felt amazing. Coming into that 300 hurdles race, I knew I was going to run a good time. My goal was to run a sub-39, and that’s what I did. On top of that, I got first place, so that was a bonus to it. It felt really good to win a gold medal my senior year.

What was the key part of that 300 hurdles race for you?

For me, I really focus on keeping up my speed in the final 100-meter backstretch. I know in that backstretch you will be more toward slowing down, and if you can keep you pace, you will run a really good time.

What is your training like in an event like hurdles?

A lot of it is speed work. One of the most important things is sprinting between the hurdles. Speed work between those hurdles is crucial to running a good time. And on top of that, getting your trail leg and lead leg down super quick. You can lose time there.

How does your mindset change between the 110-meter and 300-meter races?

I’m not sure it changes that much. I’m a very competitive person. My mindset is to always run my best race and aim for first no matter what place I’m in. Always giving it my all in the 110s and 300s. Just having that willingness to win.

What are your goals for the PIAA meet?

My goals for the 110-meter hurdles is to at least finish second. The hurdler (seeded) in first, he is running a really good time. I feel like I would have to run ridiculously fast to try and beat him and get first. I will be satisfied with a second in the 110s. The 300-meter hurdles, I’m aiming for first place to get a state championship my senior year. That’s my main goal.

Have you tried other events in track and field?

During the regular season, I run the 4-by-400. I would also run the open 100 dash. I don’t compete at invites for those two events. Those are more to help with workouts during the regular season.

How did you get started in the sport?

My two uncles were hurdlers when they were in high school. On top of that, my oldest sister was also a hurdler in high school. It’s just been in my family for so long. I just thought it would come down to where I would most likely do it in high school as well and try to beat my uncles’ (times) that they set. For the 300, this past week at WPIALs, I broke my one uncles’ (time) of 39.1. I broke my other uncles’ (time) two weeks ago at the Pine-Richland Invite.

Are you involved in any other activities at Freeport?

I play soccer, and I’m also the kicker for our football team.

Why did you decide to play soccer at UNC Asheville?

I feel like going there would give me the most experience with the highest level for soccer in college with the opportunities I was given with recruiting. It will help me further my soccer IQ and game knowledge.

Do you have any superstitions?

The day before a meet or an invite, I usually get an ice bath the night before the meet. It’s more to like relax my muscles for the next day so I feel loose and ready to go.

Do you listen to any music before races?

On the ride to the facility, I do. I listen to like rap music. Once I get to the facility and I’m warming up, I don’t listen to music.

What’s your favorite home-cooked meal?

Any type of pasta with chicken.

Do you have a favorite show to stream?

Probably “Arrow.” That’s one of my all-time favorite shows to watch.

What’s something people might not know about you?

Probably how well I keep up with my grades having to play sports all-year round and all the time. I keep straight A’s the entire year.

Bill Hartlep is the TribLive sports editor. A Pittsburgh native and Point Park graduate, he joined the Trib in 2004, covering high school sports. He held various editing roles before assuming his current position in 2019. He can be reached at bhartlep@triblive.com.

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