SYRACUSE – It’s a very loud time right now for Wawasee’s Paige Miller.
College choices are being made, senior year is unfolding. Swimming is starting, and whoa boy, are there expectations in and out of the pool. Miller, who was a more modest and unassuming freshman seemingly two weeks ago while her sister was a team leader, has become the focus as time seems to be flying by.
Miller entered the Wawasee high school program in 2013 with a lot of expectations after working through the club rankings with some impressive times and company. As her sister, Kendra, became a team leader among a very strong junior, then eventual senior class, Paige was carving out her own niche. Now as a tall and outspoken senior, she is not only getting her name out there, but hanging her name on record boards around the area.
Paige Miller holds the 500 freestyle record and is pushing the 200 freestyle mark at Wawasee, and earned those numbers in what was a wild tournament season last winter. It’s a roll of the eyes from Paige, but something she’s come to accept, that Northridge’s Katie Hughes and Paige have become attached at the hip. Like the Yankees and Red Sox, Mayweather and Pacquiao, Bartman and Alou, one generally can’t be mentioned without the other. And those records Miller set for her swim team were a direct reflection to the pressure Hughes put on Miller, and vice versa, in both freestyle events.
Miller finally broke the magical five-minute mark in the sectional finals of the 500, going 4:57.27 to meet the state standard. Hughes, though, was just a little faster as the sectional champion. Same went with the 200, where Miller made the state cut with a 1:51.81, Hughes still a little better as sectional champion. At state, Miller had a heartbreaking run in the 200, missing the championship heat by .03 seconds but still posted a 1:50.69. Taking 12th in the consolation was no consolation in the 200, but the 500 had Miller post a fourth-place championship heat time of 4:54.37, only short of Carmel junior Emma Nordin’s title run of 4:52.09, Hughes second (4:53.57) and Morgan Miller of Carmel third (4:53.76).
“What was really hard for me sophomore year, and even at conference last year, it was all in my head,” stated Paige. “I beat Katie at a dual meet, then at conference, I add time and she beats me. I was just in my head too much, and since she is such a good swimmer, she took advantage of that and swam her race and beat me. Sectional was just an awesome race, and same with state. It was crazy for both of us to be top four.
“But looking back on it, I was right there. But I don’t look at it is I have to beat Katie. If I swim the times I have set for goals, that will take care of itself.”
“It was a long time coming at that state meet,” Miller continued. “My sophomore year down there was really bad, so I did not want junior year to go the same. I talked with Julie (Wawasee head coach Julie Robinson) to see what we could do, came up with a plan, and that was how I was able to go down there and do it.”
Miller is confident she can catch Bre Robinson’s school mark of 1:49.71 in the 200, and the soon-to-be-reunited teammate with Robinson at Purdue next fall will have one more chance to chase another soon-to-be teammate in Hughes, who is also signing on to be a Boilermaker swimmer. Robinson will be a junior next season.
“I think I’ve gotten stronger, and with being taller (Miller pushes six-foot), with a lot more muscle in my body, I have to maximize what makes the most sense for my swims,” Miller said. “This season, I want to take a look at where my times were and what times it will take to get to state, and really just go from there.”
Wawasee opens its competition season Saturday in a home meet with DeKalb, slated to start at 11 a.m. Wawasee will visit East Noble on Nov. 22 and then jump into Northern Lakes Conference duals Nov. 26 at home against Warsaw. Oh, by the way, Wawasee and Northridge meet Jan. 3 at Northridge, site of the Northern Lakes Conference and sectional championships.