Kiski Area’s Eliza Miller named Valley News Dispatch Girls Athlete of the Year

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Saturday, July 2, 2022 | 6:30 PM


Just a sophomore, Eliza Miller already has accomplished what most athletes dream about.

The Kiski Area standout qualified for the PIAA championships during all three sports seasons this past school year, competing in cross country, track and field and swimming.

For her performance on the trail, in the pool and on the track, Miller has been named the Valley News Dispatch Girls Athlete of the Year.

Her school year began on a high note during cross country season.

In her first race, Miller finished first at the Crimson Hawk Invite (19 minutes, 32.9 seconds) and followed with a first-place finish at the WPIAL Section 4-3A meet (18:57.4).

Miller then set a personal and meet record at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association championship, running the 5,000 meters in 18:08.3.

“Everyone around me, even during that race, was just telling me to go for the record,” she said. “Everyone was cheering for me. It’s just pretty cool to know that I’m where the fast runners are as a sophomore.”

At the WPIAL meet, Miller finished fifth (19:32.5) and qualified for states. She then placed 11th at the PIAA meet (18:57.1), improving her time and speed from last season at the Hersheypark course.

“For my sophomore year, I now knew the course and I was more prepared, and there was more competition. I definitely think that helped a lot,” Miller said. “I did not have a great race my freshman year, and I came back my sophomore year and had a decent time that was faster. It’s pretty nice to be able to actually place my sophomore year.”

In swimming, Miller placed third in the WPIAL Class 3A 100-yard breaststroke (1:04.39).

“I knew our WPIAL swimmers were really fast, so to be able to come out third was awesome,” Miller said.

Her performance earned her a spot at the PIAA championships, where she improved her time (1:04.05) and finished fourth in the state.

Track and field season also was a success for Miller. She finished fifth in the WPIAL in the 800-meter run (2:20.49) and eighth in the 1,600 (5:06.4). Her time in the mile was good enough to qualify for the PIAA meet.

In Shippensburg, Miller took 22nd place in the 1,600 (5:10.71).

While she takes a much-needed rest before a busy junior year ahead, she took time for a Q&A:

Who pushed you the hardest so far in cross country?

My mom. She’s like a second coach, and she’s just willing to do whatever to get me to where I need to be at the top.

How much has your family meant to you throughout your first two years of high school?

A ton. If it wasn’t for them, I would not be where I am today.

How much does swimming mean to you?

I’ve literally been doing it for more than half my life, so it’s a really important part of my life.

What was your defining moment in swimming?

I’d say states this year because I was dead last in a race and then I came out fourth. I was just in awe.

What did it take to finish fourth?

I didn’t know what to expect because I knew that there were faster girls in there who were seeded in front of me for prelims, so I was really just trying to place on the podium wherever I could get. Whenever I got to finals, I was trying to stay focused and trying to get top three, which I missed, but to finish fourth was pretty cool.

What are your goals in swimming next year?

Now that we are switched to double-A, definitely trying to shoot for the top three in the WPIALs in my events, and then trying to shoot for probably the top three in states if I make it.

How much have you grown in cross country since your freshman year?

I’ve definitely gotten a lot more knowledge about it. It’s definitely been nice to be able to see how much faster I’ve got. Even maturity-wise, I used to get so nervous for my races my freshman year, and I’ve grown out of that and am less nervous.

What went into your first-place finish at the Westmoreland County

Coaches’ meet?

I was expecting (GCC’s) Corinn Brewer to be up there, and she had beat me the year previously, so I knew I just had to take it out super fast. My coach was telling me I was on sub-18 pace, so I was trying to shoot for sub-18, but to even get close to it was pretty cool. To get the record at the course was awesome.

What can others expect from you moving into a leadership-type role?

We don’t have a lot of upperclassmen, so I definitely feel like I’m gonna have to step up for the younger freshmen. I feel like I’ve had a pretty big leadership role throughout my whole high school career so far, just because everyone looked up to me because I was up at the bigger level meets. But just being upperclassmen just takes that to next the level.

How do you overcome not overthinking during your races?

I think my mom definitely helped a lot with the mental part because she always just tries to calm me down for my races and stuff. In the long run, it’s really a mental game, so if you’re calm, you just have to think through your races before you do it, and it’s not that big of a deal.

What are your goals for next season?

My big goals are to make it to WPIALs or states. I would definitely want to place at states. If I could get up into the top five for states, that would be a big goal for me.

What do you want to do after high school?

Probably something in the medical field.

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