Kiski Area runner Miller caps season with All-American honors at Nike meet

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Monday, December 13, 2021 | 10:12 AM


Kiski Area’s Eliza Miller capped her successful cross country season with a bold exclamation point.

The talented sophomore athlete placed eighth at the Nike New York/Northeast Regional Championships held Nov. 27 at Bowdoin Park, Wappingers Falls.

“This was my first year running at Nike for high school,” Miller said. “I know there weren’t as many people running at Nike as in years before, but there were still strong runners and competitors. I believe my performance was strong.”

Miller, 15, crossed the finish line in 19 minutes, 41.7 seconds in the 5,000-meter event to earn second-team All-American honors.

Miller logged a 9:45.6 time in the first half of the race and turned in a 9:56.1 effort in the second half.

“Eliza loves to compete and never holds back,” said Tom Berzonsky, Kiski Area’s cross country coach. “That’s how Eliza raced at NXR. She ran the race wanting to win it.

“You have to qualify for the championship race. Eliza was the only Kiski runner to qualify. Earning second-team honors at Nike is a great accomplishment. This was a great way to end the season.”

Miller also was honored with second-team all-state plaudits by the Pennsylvania Track and Field Coaches Association this year by placing 11th in Class 3A at the PIAA championship meet.

Following the state finals, she turned her attention to the regional meet.

“NXR is an end-of-the-year fun race that our coach likes to take us to,” Miller said. “NXR is not completely a meet that you have to qualify to do. All level high school cross country runners from all over the Northeast can run the open races.

“The championship race that I ran did have a required time standard that I had achieved during my regular season.”

Miller broke several team records in 2021, including her own record of 18:47 twice.

“The first time was at the Red, White and Blue meet. I ran an 18:33,” she said. “I broke the record a second time at the WCCA meet with a time of 18:08.”

Miller also snapped the county meet record and Westmoreland County Community College course record at the WCCA meet.

The Kiski Area underclassman holds the girls course record (19:14) at Altoona High School and eclipsed her own course record at the sectional meet held at Northmoreland Park with an 18:57 time.

“My cross country season was amazing,” Miller said. “I set a lot of goals for myself, and I ended up achieving nearly all of them.

“Some of the goals I set and did achieve were to run every race with the mindset to either break the course record, win or qualify for the next-level meet and to place top five or better at WPIALs, qualify for states and medal at states.”

Miller made her varsity debut as a freshman by winning the girls race at the 2020 Gingerbread Man invitational.

Also last year, she finished fifth at the WPIAL finals, qualified for the PIAA meet and was named the Alle-Kiski girls runner of the year.

Miller is a top competitor in cross country and as a swimmer. She swims year round.

“This helps her as a runner,” Berzonsky said. “She is very strong.”

In the pool, Miller was a medalist in the 100-yard breaststroke last March at the WPIAL Class 3A championships.

“My goals for the high school swim season are to qualify for WPIALs and for the state meet,” Miller said. “I’m also setting goals for myself to break a few school records, starting with the 100 breast, 200 IM and 50 free.”

Two other Kiski runners, sophomore Tatiana Holt and senior Phil Miller, participated in the open divisions at the Nike Northeast Regional at Bowdoin Park.

Holt registered a time of 22:24.5 to place 24th in the girls race, and Miller posted a 19.48.8 time to end up 125th in the boys race.

“I was very happy to see Phil finish his senior year on a positive note,” Berzonsky said. “He has been a great team leader for us.

“Tatiana had one of the highest finishes by a Kiski athlete in the open race. She is only a sophomore and is going to be a major contributor to our team success in the future.”

Holt, along with seniors Lizeth Sesmas and Josie Plazio, helped Miller prepare for the 2021 cross country postseason by running with her at Kiski Area practices.

“I’d like to give a shout-out to my teammates who continued to train with me leading up to the state meet even though their season had ended,” Miller said. “Without them, my last few weeks of training would have been pretty tough. They helped me finish out my season.”

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