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Warriors Athlete of Week: Miller running to record-breaking season

Brainerd's Meritt Miller runs to first place at the Crosby-Ironton Ranger Invite. Mike Aulie Photo.

Meritt Miller

Sport: Cross country running

Year: Senior

Age: 18

Height: 5-foot-2

Career highlight: Finishing 13th in 2015 Section 8-2A meet & qualifying for state

Other sports: Track & field

Favorite class: AP Bio

Favorite food: Spaghetti

Favorite movie: "Stepbrothers"

Favorite TV show: "Grey's Anatomy"

Hobbies: Swimming

Future plans: Attend Minnesota-Duluth, possibly pursue career in physical therapy

Parents: Jon and Rita Miller

Meritt Miller finished 13th in the 2015 Section 8-2A meet to qualify for the 2A state meet where she placed 74th.

This fall Miller hopes to return to state and have the Brainerd Warrior girls qualify as a team. Brainerd has won three races and finished second in three more this year.

The senior is doing her part to get the Warriors to state as she has won two races this fall and has finished no lower than eighth in four others. In addition, Miller has twice broken the school's 5,000-meter record that she set last year.

In 2015, the first year girls raced 5,000 meters, Miller set the school record in the section meet with a time of 19:32.46. On Oct. 6 this fall, in the Ranger Invite at Ruttger's Bay Lake Lodge, she lowered her school record to 19:15.

"It was a pretty fast course," Miller said. "It wasn't that big of a meet. A lot of teams didn't show up for some reason. The weather was pretty nice. It wasn't too hot or too cold.

'Actually, the week before, we did speed workouts, lots of 200s. We hadn't had a meet for a while before that so that helped."

Warriors coach Dave Herath said it's been an interesting fall of racing. Brainerd added the Pequot Lakes Invite Sept. 8 and two weeks later ran in muddy conditions at the University of Minnesota Invite. He said the Warriors haven't had many opportunities to run on a fast golf-course type course.

"Combine that with a week and a half between runs and from what we were seeing in practice we knew Meritt was due for a big drop, as all our kids were," Herath said. "Meritt's goal at (Ruttger's) was to break the school record, and obviously she did by like 15 seconds."

Five days after the Ranger Invite, the school record fell again as Miller clocked 18:51.1 at Boulder Ridge Golf Club in St. Cloud.

"There was more competition there," she said. "The Willmar team was there and coach wants me to pace my times off of them so that helped."

Willmar is ranked second in Class 2A and seventh in the nation. The Cardinals' Sophie Schmitz and Jesse Hanson are ranked eighth and 10th, respectively, in 2A.

"At about the mile mark, Meritt was in about 16th or 17th place," Herath said. "We were a little concerned early on but Meritt was running smart. The pace was faster than she knew she needed to go out. She was 20 some seconds behind at the mile mark but right on pace. That's what I see this year—Meritt knows her pacing, knows her body, knows where to be more, and that's helping her out. She knows the race is going to come back to her.

"We've had so many comments about our girls as a whole just finishing races well. We changed up our strength training program last spring. Meritt got the 2-mile school record (in track last spring) and has continued on this fall. She's just a stronger kid."

Brainerd returns Miller, Grace Erholtz, Molly Selisker and Ali Crochet from last year's section team that finished sixth. Junior Emily Rugloski and seventh-grader Lilly Schneider have filled the other two varsity positions this fall.

"I think we're definitely closer as a team this year," Miller said. "It helps that we got two new girls on the varsity team now—Lilly Schaefer and Emily Rugloski."

Other notable efforts:

• Katie Streiff, swimming, broke Melrose pool records in the 100 butterfly and 200 medley relay with Julia Wallace, Kylie Lange and Jamie Wallace.

• Charlie Geraets, football, rushed 45 times for 296 yards and five TDs vs. Bemidji.