Nick Miller usually does not wear his emotions on his sleeve.
No matter what circumstances have been thrown at the Wadsworth distance runner, he’s been able to take them in stride.
Last winter at the state indoor meet, Miller wasn’t ready to let another disappointment roll off his back after finishing second in the 800-meter run and as a member of the 4x800 relay.
“I was kind of tired of being second. I wanted to win,” he said. “In the 4x8, I was frustrated, but we ran well and was leading by so much, then quickly the tables turned and finished second.
“We ran an amazing time and still were second. It was rough.”
Those emotions were compounded by injuries that plagued him in track and cross country, but they propelled him. He won the 800 and helped the 4x8 to victory at the Division I state meet, which was more than enough for him to earn Gazette MVP.
“He’s a pretty level-headed kid for the most part, but there he began to question is he was ever going to win a state championship,” Wadsworth coach Chris Beery said of the indoor meet. “Just to see that happen at the end of the (outdoor) season — not only to win one but win two — he’s very deserving, and it was a very fitting way to end one of the best track and field careers that Wadsworth has seen.”
Miller battled a hip injury as a junior but still managed an All-Ohio medal and faced a similar setback during cross country season. Again he found a way to qualify for state.
So finishing second in a pair of races at the state indoor meet made him emotional knowing his high school career was down to the closing months. He put everything in perspective to see his journey end at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium with a pair of gold medals.
“It still hasn’t fully hit me yet that I won two state titles,” Miller said. “Last year was a huge letdown because going into state I was hurt, but I had the sense of letting my team down.
“It was kind of a redemption, especially in the 4x8, to get the state title.”
The Ohio State recruit opened his state weekend realizing a dream, as Miller, Gabe Szalay, Josiah Sovine and Kai Wagner cruised to the 4x8 title in a nation-leading 7:39.05.
Fresh off that thrill, Miller went back to the track on the final day and needed everything he had left in the tank to overtake Toledo Whitmer’s Nathan Cousino in the final 50 meters to win the 800. The performance came a week after Miller lost to Cousino at the Amherst Regional despite running a career-low 1:50.90.
The 5-foot-10, 145-pounder wasn’t done, as he helped the 4x4 to seventh and added a sixth All-Ohio medal to his collection.
“He’s the ultimate track junkie,” Beery said. “His mind for the sport and his preparation is unmatched. He prepares himself, knows the competition, knows training, knows nutrition. He definitely is cut from a different cloth.”
To prevent anymore trips to the injured list, Miller started taking better care of his body. From a strict offseason weight-room regiment to spending extra minutes warming up or cooling down, he wasn’t leaving anything to chance.
“I learned from my mistakes,” he said. “What caused my injury last year was overuse but also not stretching as well as I should’ve been.
“This year I took extra time before and after races to make sure I was pretty well stretched, whether that was races or workout days. I was healthier and my body could take more.”
As Miller puts away the Wadsworth jersey in favor of Ohio State, he knows it’s been quite a ride.
From a skinny freshman wondering what it might be like to racing against the state’s best to being one of them, Miller leaves with many of his goals checked off but, more importantly, a blueprint.
“I knew coming in (to high school) that I was a pretty decent runner and I wanted to compete to be one of the best guys in the state, but I didn’t do that well that year,” he said. “At the time, I didn’t think anything of it because I had three more years, but as a sophomore when I placed at state in the 1,600, that set into motion that I could be back next year and compete to be one of the top guys.
“From there on it just progressed and I formed into the runner I am now.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.