The Des Moines Register’s Lance Bergeson rights a two part story on Tipton’s Ashley Miller for “Mile Posts”. For the link to Lance’s Mile Post web page CLICK HERE!
The words Ashley Miller and unattached have gone hand in hand in 2013.
The former Tipton High School prep standout has been traveling to races for the past seven months on her own dime, trying to fulfill a goal of running for a U.S. team while lacking sponsorships.
Miller has kept a sunny disposition in the early part of her professional career even while the results haven’t been what she envisioned.
“It’s really, really hard right now,” Miller said of competing without financial assistance. “It’s been frustrating. I’ve been let down a few times. After an Olympic year, all the companies are really drained. I can’t let it get to me.”
Miller, 24, is on a break from racing after being eliminated in the prelims of the 1,500 meters at the U.S. Track & Field Championships at Drake Stadium last month. She was 21st overall in 4:20, 9 seconds off where she wanted to be with the top Americans.
While her agent continues to seek sponsors to back Miller, she is trying to recharge her batteries and figure out how to take the next step in her evolution as a professional runner.
“I had great workouts. I was physically fit. I didn’t put it together,” Miller said of time after recovering from a painful muscle injury that limited her indoor track season. “I have to gather myself, take a step back and see what worked well in the past for me. A mental refresh right now.”
She sees her fellow 1,500 competitors racing in big meets over in Europe and wishes she were there.
“Right now I’m just worried about getting funding to get to meets,” Miller said. “You need a sponsor to stay afloat.”
To her credit, Miller has traveled to many high-quality meets and races since graduating from the University of Nebraska in 2012. She opened her spring season at the Stanford Invitational and also ran at the Oxy High Performance Meet in Los Angeles.
She was ninth out of 13 competitors at the Grand Blue Mile in downtown Des Moines and then three days later had a front-row seat to watch fellow Iowan Jenny Simpson set a Drake Stadium record in winning the featured women’s 1,500 in 4:03.35. Miller was 10th in 4:19.
It was on that very same track where Miller gained legendary status by winning a still-unmatched 15 state track titles.
“We are kind of waiting to see if we can have some breakthrough performances,” Miller said.
She has found a good training base in Lincoln, where she was a three-time All-American for the Huskers. She pursuing a Masters in community nutrition and health promotion when she isn’t training. She lives with her younger sister, 22-year-old Melissa, who graduated recently from the University of Iowa.
“I decided I wanted to stay in Nebraska,” Miller said. “I actually love Lincoln. People have a perception of it. It’s a really big town, but it has a small-town feel. I run all through the town of Lincoln. There’s always fun things to do in a college town.”
She picked Lincoln in part to continue to be coached by Nebraska head cross country coach and assistant track coach David Harris.
“I’m in a really good training situation,” Miller said. “I can use the University of Nebraska facility. I’m considering joining a local club.”
She would like to find training partners because she is doing all of the workouts by herself. She said even during the college track season she was running 75 percent of the time by herself.
“It was definitely a new experience for me, it was a difficult transition,” Miller said. “I was no longer running for a collegiate program, but still in that environment. I had goals beyond what they (Huskers runners) were trying to achieve. I had to become more independent in my running.”
Traveling to races such as the Stanford and Oxy races in California and even the Medtronic TC 1-mile race in the Twin Cities by herself was an adjustment in itself.
“It was definitely a hard thing not having the coach there,” Miller said. “I’m getting used to traveling by myself without a support system. “Definitely the hardest part is getting to the meets.”
She is asked what it will take for her to see that big breakthrough race or two that will attract a corporate sponsor.
“I don’t know what it’s going to take,” she said. “Some consistency, running against some good competition. Be familiar with how to compete in those big races.
“There is no secret. I need to take it to the next level.”
IN PART TWO: Ashley Miller looks back at her time at Nebraska and dealing with unrealistic expectations after a tremendous prep career at Tipton.
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