It took an injury playing football for Evan Miller to unleash his potential at the track.
Miller, from Zephyrhills Christian Academy, recently captured the Class 1A boys 100-meter dash title in a blistering 10.75 seconds at the Florida High School Athletic Association Track & Field 2018 Championships at the University of North Florida, in Jacksonville.
Moreover, the senior was the final leg of the school’s gold-medal winning 4×100-meter relay team that scorched the competition with a 42.10 second mark — joining junior NyJohn Moody, sophomore Tyler Davis and senior Calvin Samuel.
Those marked the only first-place finishes at the state meet among athletes from The Laker/Lutz News Coverage area.
The event was held May 4 and May 5.
For Miller, the memorable showing has been a year in the making.
Last summer, the multisport athlete suffered a broken ankle during a 7-on-7 football tournament.
The injury forced Miller, a standout defensive back, to miss several games in the fall as a member of the Zephyrhills Christian Academy varsity football team.
Unable to hit the gridiron, Miller hit the starting blocks instead, as part of his rehabilitation process.
“It was like an epiphany, ‘Well, we could do track,’ to help work him back into shape,” said his mother and track coach Erica Miller. “He still always had his eye on football, but we just didn’t really realize he was that good at track, so it kind of fell into place.
“For him now, a year later (after the injury) to be state champ, that’s awesome; miraculous, really,” she said.
Though Miller ran track his freshman year (then for Wiregrass Ranch High School) and for Zephyrhills Christian Academy as a junior, the speedster admitted this was the first time he really began to seriously train for the sport. His focus on it intensified after his football-related setback.
Around December, Miller linked up with AAU track coach and personal trainer BB Roberts, who runs the Wesley Chapel-based Speed Starz Track Club, and lists NFL and MLB athletes as training clientele.
Roberts, a former track star in his own right at Wesley Chapel High School and Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College, worked to correct Miller’s running form and technique, among other tips.
Miller explained: “He helped me with my start. My start was something I really needed to work on — coming off the blocks. And then sprinting, finishing the race. He taught me transitions through the race. It’s not just getting from point ‘A’ to point ‘B,’ there’s a transition, a drive phase, all that stuff…”
The fixtures shaved Miller’s 100-meter personal record from a still-impressive 11.2 to a 10.69 — which he set at the Steinbrenner High Invitational in early April.
Meanwhile, Miller’s time of 10.75 second in the state finals bested a 10.77-second effort from the second-place finisher, Community School of Naples senior Alex Murphey. The next fastest time in the 1A finals was a 10.98.
Miller no doubt believed in himself at the event.
“I was very confident,” Miller said, “because it wasn’t that I was much faster, but every meet I was placing either first or second, so I was very confident going into states and regionals, knowing I’ll be able to win.”
He added: “I was ready to run that day. I went into the finals with the mindset of, ‘I’m going to get a gold medal. I’m going to get first place. I’m not accepting under that.’ So, it felt good to cross the finish line, at first. And, it had me in a good mood for the 4×100 (relay) as well, because that was the next race.”
Miller is also proud to represent his small school — which has about 250 students from prekindergarten through 12th grade — in just its second year offering a boys and girls track & field program.
A budding program, Zephyrhills Christian Academy also reached states last year and came home with gold in the boys 4×100 relay (43.3 seconds). That relay squad featured Miller, Samuel, Jevan Smith and Dominic Moses.
“It’s kinda cool. Since last year was actually our first year ever running track and actually made it to states, it feels good to bring attention to the school for track,” Miller said.
Aside from natural ability and learning to master sprinting fundamentals, Roberts credits Miller’s motivation, determination and never-give-up attitude as reasons for the prep sprinter’s all-but immediate success.
“He had will. He had the potential,” Roberts said. “It wasn’t magic or anything like that. He was willing to listen, willing to learn, willing to take criticism. He came out the very first track meet, and I saw him and I said, ‘Hey, let’s work on this.’ Every other track meet we’d work on something else, until we perfected it.”
Miller just turned 17 and plans to compete in football and track at Warner University, in Lake Wales.
A state title in hand, perhaps Miller’s next goal is supplanting Roberts’ own 100-meter best of 10.64 seconds.
“I’m going to get him past that. I want him to be better than me,” said Roberts, noting he could see Miller reach the 10.4s by July.
The track star has other bold aspirations in sight, too.
Miller explained: “I’m looking to chop down my time as much as I can, maybe even try out for the Olympics. My parents were talking to me about the 2020 Olympics, maybe getting in that if I get my time down, in time. But, I’m just going to keep running track in college, see where I can get from that.”
Roberts acknowledged such a goal is attainable for Miller, with athletic bloodlines to further tap into. Along with his mother who ran track in high school, his father, Selvesta Miller, played football at the University of South Carolina and also had a stint with the Miami Dolphins, as a linebacker/defensive end.
“He can go far,” Roberts said. “He’s definitely an amazing kid, and I’m excited for what the future holds for him.”
2018 FHSAA Track & Field Championships
Results of top finishers in T he Laker/Lutz News Coverage area, for Classes 1A-4A:
Zephyrhills Christian Academy (tied for 7th out of 57 schools)
Carrollwood Day School (48th)
1st place: Evan Miller, Zephyrhills Christian Academy (10.75 seconds)
6th place: Seth Cribben, Carrollwood Day School (15.44 seconds)
1st place: Zephyrhills Christian Academy—NyJohn Moody, Tyler Davis, Calvin Samuel, Evan Miller (42.10 seconds)
9th place: Kavion Mabra, Zephyrhills Christian Academy (12.93 meters)
23rd: Christopher Sheppard III, Carrollwood Day School (11.45 meters)
Carrollwood Day School (31st out of 48 schools)
4th place-tied: Hailey Crow, Carrollwood Day School (3.00 meters)
Zephyrhills High School (tied for 30th out of 55 schools)
8th place: Cartrell Strong, Zephyrhills (6.66 meters)
5th place: Cartrell Strong, Zephyrhills (13.49 meters)
Land O’ Lakes High School (tied for 23rd out of 54 schools)
Wesley Chapel High School (tied for 23rd)
Pasco High School (tied for 36th)
3rd place: Isaiah Bolden, Wesley Chapel (10.75 seconds)
7th place: Isaiah Bolden, Wesley Chapel (23.07 seconds)
4th place: Mario Watson, Pasco (48.52 seconds)
19th place: Alejandro Michel, Freedom (10:11.77 minutes)
16th place: Land O’ Lakes—Adam Hahn, Josiah Pineda, Joseph Pineda, Alex Normandia (8:21.95 minutes)
2nd place: Tucker Brace, Land O’ Lakes (4.65 meters)
11th place: Gregory Zellers, Sunlake (15.21 meters)
23rd: Thomas Calta, Land O’ Lakes (13.40 meters)
Gaither High School (tied for 17th place out of 46 schools)
Sunlake High School (tied for 32nd)
Land O’ Lakes High School (46th)
4th place: LaSarah Hargove, Gaither (11.95 seconds)
4th place: LaSarah Hargrove, Gaither (24.00 seconds)
20th place: Natalie Abernathy, Land O’ Lakes (5:27.76 minutes)
8th place: Natalie Abernathy, Land O’ Lakes (11:15.71 minutes)
24th: Shannon Gordy, Sunlake (12:47.54 minutes)
6th place: Arielle Boone, Sunlake (5.43 meters)
20th: Gianna Levy, Sunlake (4.89 meters)
13th place: Arielle Boone, Sunlake (11.05 meters)
7th place: Lauryn Beacham, Sunlake (11.20 meters)
19th: Keyvyn Stinyard, Pasco, (29.54 meters)
Steinbrenner High School (44th place out of 52 schools)
18th place: Steinbrenner—Marcus Quinones, McCrea Weller, Zachary Harrigan, Zachary Whitmer (8:18.78 minutes)
Steinbrenner High School (tied for 18th place out of 53 schools)
6th place: Ken’naria Gadson (56.77 seconds)
15th place: Sophia Piniella, Steinbrenner (5:17.97 minutes)
18th: Alexandra Staumann, Steinbrenner (5:22.61 minutes)
8th place: Sophia Piniella, Steinbrenner (11.07. 57 minutes)
9th place: Steinbrenner—Natalie Brown, Serena Gadson, Ken’naria Gadson, Dana Elkalazani (3:58.15 minutes)
10th place: Ashley Allen, Steinbrenner (5.23 meters)
10th place: Ashlyn Ludovici, Steinbrenner (3.15 meters)
9th place: Sara Grofter, Steinbrenner (11.07 meters)
16th: Harmony Shellman, Steinbrenner (10.45 meters)
Published May 16, 2018