Kiski Area’s Miller finds swim home after being victim of budget cuts

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Saturday, June 13, 2020 | 4:21 PM


On May 21, East Carolina’s athletic department announced it would reduce the number of athletic programs because of budget restructuring efforts in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic.

The women’s swimming program was one of the sports affected, and it left recent Kiski Area graduate Naomee Miller scrambling. Miller signed her letter of intent with East Carolina in November.

“It was really difficult, and I was pretty upset about it,” said Miller, who excelled as a freshman at the high school level and also produced top results as a member of the Pittsburgh Elite Aquatic Club. “At first, I didn’t know what to do. It was crazy.”

But uncertainty quickly turned to comfort as Miller found a new home at Marshall.

“(Marshall coach Ian Walsh) reached out and said he was sorry to hear about the team. He was very nice about it,” said Miller, who also was contacted by schools such as Richmond and Queens University of Charlotte.

“He understood that East Carolina was my first choice, but he said that I would fit in very well at Marshall.”

Miller said she hadn’t talked directly to Walsh before the recent interactions but knew a little about the program from a couple of emails.

“I felt a good connection with Coach Ian right from the start,” Miller said. “He worked with a really close friend to my (PEAQ) coach (Marian Clark). She also reached out to coach Ian. I had a virtual tour of the campus. It was beautiful, just like ECU. I talked to a couple of the girls and developed a strong connection with them, too. It is a really good fit for me.”

Miller said though she is happy to have a new start at Marshall, she will miss growing the relationships already developed with those she thought would be her East Carolina teammates.

“We would all do Zoom calls and have group chats,” Miller said. “We were getting to know each other so well. That’s what made this so hard. All of a sudden, the connection is gone. Despite some of them becoming opponents, I expect all of us to keep in touch.”

One of those East Carolina recruits, Cameron Speed, was a PIAA qualifier from Central York. He will attend Florida Atlantic, an opponent of Marshall in Conference USA.

“I definitely always wanted to swim Division I, and it’s a big accomplishment for me. All my hard work has paid off,” Miller said.

Clark said she is thrilled Miller found a strong landing spot in Marshall.

“I am not surprised because Naomee is such a great swimmer, and I knew that people would be interested in her,” Clark said. “She has committed to a program which is on the rise with a coach who is really committed to his swimmers. I think they have gotten a nice diamond in the rough.

“I have so enjoyed working with Naomee. She’s not only a great swimmer but a great person and a great leader. She really brings her teammates along. She’s always had that ability to be elite. I know that she will continue to be an example for her (PEAQ) team.”

Miller, not fully rested, produced a couple of best times during a busy Allegheny Mountain Swimming Junior Olympic meet March 6-8 at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

The rest of the season was canceled just two weeks before she was to swim at the USA Swimming Speedo Sectionals Spring Short Course meet in Christianburg, Va.

“We worked really hard all season, and it was really tough to not be able to swim at that meet,” Miller said.

With all local pools closed, Miller said she relied on weightlifting and running to stay in shape. She also kept in contact with Clark and other members of PEAQ and took part in Zoom dry-land workouts.

Now back in the water, Miller has returned to team practices at Longue Vue Country Club in Verona and the Greater Pittsburgh Aquatic Club in Penn Hills.

“Looking back, I will remember all of the great meets and moments and all of the great friends I’ve made all over the country,” Miller said. “I am also ready to take that next step and see what I can do in college. I am excited.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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