Calm, Cool Miller Seeking Rarefied Air
April 23, 2012
By Megan Morgan
SEATTLE - All-American pole vaulter Logan Miller has focused on improving not just to break the elusive 14-foot barrier, but also with the thought in the back of her head like so many athletes that, the year 2012, is not just any year: it is an Olympic year.
So the time to be on the rise is now, and Miller is on the way up again thanks to a big personal best at the Pepsi Team Invitational on April 7, where the Reno, Nevada native cracked the coveted 14-foot barrier for the first time. That vaulted Miller up to No. 2 in the Husky recordbooks, as only 2005 NCAA Champion Kate Soma had previously cleared 14-feet, setting the school record at 14-2.
Coming off that performance, there is no good reason why Logan Miller will not see herself competing at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June. The junior is only 2.5 inches off the Trials B standard of 14 feet, 2.5 inches and by track standards, it's still very early in the year. The Trials looks for a field of 24 people and currently Miller stands tied for that 24th spot. At the rate she's improving, her goal seems well within reach.
Says Miller, "I just needed to become more confident that I could jump 14 feet, because I never thought I could. Then once I did it, I'm like, 'okay, it's really not that bad.'"
Perhaps more than any other event in track and field, the pole vault is one where things can suddenly "click" for an athlete. Last season at the NCAA Prelims in Eugene, Miller became the latest in a line of Pat Licari coached Huskies to throw the seedings out the window and set a huge PR at the biggest moment. She went to the meet with an outdoor best of 13-0 ¾, and then cleared three consecutive new career-highs to wind up at 13-5 ¼ and advance to the NCAA finals in Des Moines, Iowa. Once there, Miller made that height for a second time to finish 11th overall and earn All-America Second Team honors, the first by a Husky women's vaulter since 2008.
Expecting big things this indoor season, Miller vaulted well but not well enough to reach her goal of the NCAA Indoor meet. She raised her indoor personal-best up to 13-4 ½, but fell short of the heights of the previous outdoor campaign.
"Indoor season was really rough, and Pat kept telling me, `You're gonna PR, you're gonna get it.' And it didn't happen for a while and I was so frustrated," Miller says.
On Pat Licari as a coach, Miller was full of nothing but compliments. "He's awesome. He's dedicated, he's committed and he's positive. I think that's the biggest thing--positivity. He will lie to you and tell you, `you can do it.' And then, pretty soon, you can."
Each year, Coach Licari, who has now coached three NCAA Champions, has his pole vaulters build off the technique from the previous year. Last year, the focus was on the top end of Miller's jump, while they've focused more on the plant and the take off of her jump this year.
That next "aha!" moment in Eugene came despite Miller straining her hip flexor in warm-ups. She competed with her thigh heavily taped, and after going up and over 14-feet on her first try, she called it a day. "Things finally came together," said Miller. "It just clicked. Consistent practice with technique finally made the big difference."
Miller said the injury was not a major problem, and this past weekend at the Mt. SAC Relays she followed up her PR with the second-best mark of her career, going 13-7 ¼.
After her collegiate career comes to a close next year, Miller, majoring in Early Childcare and Family Studies, said she plans to have a sit down with Coach Licari to determine whether she could be competitive at the elite level and where her potential will likely peak. "He's super realistic which is really helpful," says Miller on Licari. "If he thinks I have the potential to jump in the high 14's to 15 at some point in my career, I would definitely consider pole vaulting professionally."
Where Miller's potential can take her is ultimately unknown. A modest athlete in practice, Miller never practices on high poles or jumps high on a day-to-day basis. She's all about the competitions; a chance for her to build off her calm adrenaline, get on bigger poles, and then she says, "It's all just about incorporating the technique from practices."
For Miller, the fuel to her fire comes from critically evaluating her performances, critiquing her technique in practices, and approaching competitions with an attitude that speaks to her personality: calm, cool, and collected. Miller reflected that naturally, she's not super competitive, "When I get to a meet, yeah, I want to beat everyone, but it's more like if I don't do what I think I'm capable of, that's what's going to make me upset with my performance, not what place I come in."
Perhaps it's this level-headed attitude that makes Logan Miller so spectacular at what she does. Unlike some track events that require a component of reckless abandon and pushing to absolute physical boundaries, the pole vault holds a stronger component of perfection. Precision and logical progressions--kind of like Miller's attitude. She is not an athlete with unrealistic expectations and yet she expects great things from herself; the greatest things she is capable of, and nothing less.