the Millers of Manheim
story and photo by Don Rich,
"I had no idea who they were before the race,"
that guy running with Blood?"
"Those Manheim kids look really good."
"Can you believe those two are freshmen?"
"Freshmen boys like that are rare. With girls, it's not a surprise. Guys. Big surprise."
I had to choose between two great meets on September 7th. In State College at the Spiked Shoe, I missed seeing the top girls' team in the country, Saratoga Springs. I also missed seeing the fastest 5K of the young season by their #1 runner, Nicole Blood. I went to Gettysburg instead. And I got to see something even better. I was witness to the unveiling of two incredibly talented freshmen boys from Manheim Township, twins Craig and Brad Miller.
As the race was unfolding, Ryan Blood, a senior from East Pennsboro, and a very talented runner (Penn Relays 3000, PA Indoor State Champ in the 3000, District III XC Champion), was pushing the pace as they approached the mile. He gapped the lead pack, with the exception of one guy. That guy turned out to be Craig Miller, a 9th grader. Just after the mile, he was gapped by Blood, briefly, but pulled even as they passed through the 1.5 mile mark. Just behind him, seasoned Cumberland Valley runner Brian Fuller, a junior, was accompanied by Craig's twin, Brad. And then there was the rest of the race.
"I had no idea who they were before the race," said Blood. "But I do now."
So where did these guys come from? Well, they grew up in Manheim Township. So they're not from another planet. And apparently they're just very active guys. And when we say active, we can't emphasize that enough.
They play soccer. They bike. They swim. They run. They play lacrosse. When they're not sleeping, eating, or studying, they're basically aerobic. Which partially explains how they can come out to their first invitational and run 15:59 and 16:18, getting 1st and 4th. They also seem to be blessed with great genes. As one athlete commented who saw the race, "they've got big hearts and huge lungs. You can't coach that."
According to Craig, they decided to run cross country this year after soccer season ended last year when they were in middle school, "because I'm better at cross country. And soccer wasn't that much fun anymore"
They do have some running experience. Both ran cross country in 7th grade. Brad won the league title. They both switched to soccer in 8th grade. They play basketball. They love lacrosse, and will probably switch to that sport for the spring. And they both swim and bike. Brad ran track last spring, getting 4:41 in the 1600 and 2:04 in the 800. "Two weeks before track started, I ran every day. So that (the times) weren't a big surprise. I expected to go that fast, because in 7th grade, I ran a 4:48 1600. Actually, I was kind of disappointed I didn't go any faster."
That amount of aerobic activity can explain how they can perform as they did, because their summer running was limited to only about 130 miles each, TOTAL!. "But we had swim team practice every morning. And we went to a basketball camp. So we didn't just sit around all summer," noted Brad. Craig added, "We were active. And I ride my bike a lot."
They both think they have found a sport they can enjoy as individuals and as a part of a team. Plus, they have a pretty good idea of what their team could become. Brad pointed out that their fastest runner from last year is currently hurt. Tyler Nickels, now a senior, was 15th in District III and 51st at States. They hope Nickels is back in a few weeks. "When he comes back, we're going to be pretty good," Craig continued. "Right now, we only have two seniors in our top eight. And the rest of our team is us (two freshmen), and four sophomores." (soph Harry Dixon was 16th in 17:03). "So in two years..." We'll save that prediction for another time.
Suffice it to say that their coach, Terry Lee, who has guided other top runners at Manheim Township, most recently Mike Baird, is happy to have the two prodigies. "Now it's up to me to refine their talent. This is going to be fun."