Alumna Grace Miller carves her path into triathlon success
After graduating in 2016, Grace Miller originally had the mindset to attend the University of Missouri, major in English Studies and stay relatively close to her family. Instead, she created a completely different path for herself and her future, moving to Naperville, IL. to attend North Central College.
“I knew how much I️ would miss my parents and home, but I️ made a bold choice and chose to go four and a half hours away to where I️ knew no one,” Miller said. “I️ made a whole new group of friends and adapted to a whole new environment.”
At North Central College, Miller is currently majoring in exercise science, the study of human movement and how the body responds and adapts to physical activity. Not only is Miller committed to her studies, but she is also committed as a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III athlete.
“I️ also decided to commit to a sport, Women’s Triathlon, in which I️ had no experience, so I️ had to adapt to the new sport,” Miller said. “I️ love the choices that I️ made and wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The Next College Student Athlete (NCSA) website helped Miller get noticed by her eventual college coach, yet it wasn’t what she had planned for.
“My high school swim coach, Allison Zeller, noticed my interest in participating in a college sport, so her and her husband, Todd Zeller, signed me up with the website,” Miller said. “Originally, I️ just wanted to swim in college and only put interest into swimming, but Jennifer Garrison, my current triathlon coach, showed interest in me on the website, due to my past experience in cross country and swimming.”
Miller used her experiences from high school level swim and cross country to her advantage when competing in all three events: swimming, biking and running. She also had a lot of guidance from her coach when dealing with the obstacles of the new sport.
“The challenges I️ faced in triathlon were pushing past my limits. What I️ mean by that is when I’m tired, I️ like to slow down or think that I️ am giving my all, but in reality, I️ can push harder,” Miller said. “My coach was an amazing motivator for that, as she was a professional triathlete. She taught me how to go out of my comfort zone and stay there for the whole race.”
On Nov. 4, Miller competed in the 2017 Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championship in Tempe, AZ. Miller secured a Division III individual title and claimed the 34 national title for North Central.
“After finishing the race, honestly I was in complete shock because I’d never thought it would be something I could accomplish,” Miller said. “Throughout the season, I worked on building up my confidence with my coach, and it paid off. It felt unreal and a relief that I won the Division III title.”
Miller plans to return next year to compete in the triathlon and also swim during her offseason.
“Other sports I️ participate in is the swim team at North Central. I️ decided to participate in it to stay in shape, and it’s not too competitive, so it’s a good in-between training sport,” Miller said.
After she graduates from college, Miller plans to be a graduate assistant for the team, while also getting her master’s degree. Nonetheless, she has not forgotten the lessons she has learned in high school.
“Something that I learned from West is to branch out and try new things, which is exactly why I️ decided to make the moves I️ did. They taught me to go out of my comfort zone, which I️ believe is essential for everyone to learn,” Miller said.
In the almost two years since graduating, Miller has managed to redesign and readjust her original plans and has since found a benefit into expanding her choices.
“Try new things and do different things because you never know how it will work out. I️ decided to go to a school where I️ knew no one and do a sport I’d never done before, and it paid off in the end,” Miller said. “I️ recommend not only stepping out of your comfort zone but going to a college where you know no one. It’s a great fresh start and gives you a lot of opportunities later in life. No worries, you will still keep your high school friends, but it’s always a good idea to meet new people and find a new passion.”