WRV’s Miller learning to handle busy athletic schedule

  • At a break in the game, White River Valley soccer player Anita Miller talks with her teammates during their match with Bellows Falls on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2021, in South Royalton, Vt. Miller is playing soccer and running cross country this fall. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

  • White River Valley sophomore Anita Miller, who took up cross country running as a COVID-19 pandemic activity last year, finished third at states and is now doing that and soccer for the Wildcats. Miller moves the ball against Bellow Falls' Abigail Broadley during their game on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2021, in South Royalton, Vt. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news — Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/23/2021 10:01:17 PM
Modified: 9/23/2021 10:01:22 PM

SOUTH ROYALTON — High school athletes’ lives can be difficult to balance.

Between schoolwork, social life, daily practice and any other extracurricular activities, their schedules can get busy. That’s challenging for some.

White River Valley School sophomore Anita Miller takes it a step further. She participates in two sports at the same time during fall: girls soccer and cross country. There are tough days for her, but she makes it work.

“Running has always been a coping mechanism for me,” Miller said. “People think that when I run four miles after school and I go to soccer, it’s not going to be enjoyable and it’s something I’m forcing myself to do. But it really is something that I look forward to, and it helps me.”

Miller relies on her time management skills to make it work between the two sports. She talks with girls soccer coach Kim Prestridge and cross country coach Shannon Palone before the seasons begin to discuss the schedules. Miller finds the days where the teams’ slates overlap and makes the call.

She said it’s tough to miss some games and meets with the teams, but she knows she can’t be at everything in this situation. The coaches said Miller’s situation has not impacted her standing with her teammates or team chemistry.

On days when neither sport is competing, she practices with both teams. She runs with cross country after school, then goes to a nearby park to do some homework before soccer practice. After that, she goes home, gets the rest of her schoolwork done and goes right to bed.

Miller does the same thing in spring, when she does track and field as well as spring soccer.

“I think the maturity level is really high with her. She does the job that you ask her to do,” Prestridge said. “This summer, too, she worked hard. She planned her summer; she had everything planned out. There’s just a lot of forethought and planning that I see that I don’t see in a lot of other high school kids her age.”

And Miller has not only managed to balance both sports in the same season. She excels at them.

She’s a key defender on the Wildcats’ soccer team, which is 4-1-0 after Wednesday’s win over Bellows Falls. And Miller won WRV’s cross country race at Hartford High on Tuesday, setting a course record of 20 minutes, 44 seconds. She finished fourth at VPA D-III states as a freshman (20:37.1).

The participation in both sports has affected each one differently. Palone said that while Miller runs a lot in soccer, it’s a different type of running than what she does in cross country. But running cross country has made Miller a better soccer player.

Prestridge agreed.

“Her speed on the field has tremendously improved,” Prestridge said. “She was already quick. She plays defense for us for the most part, and she was already a very quick player. But specifically this year, the intensity of her running and how quickly she can track down an attacker have exponentially increased.”

Miller grew up playing soccer. She played on various club and rec league teams since she was in elementary school. Cross country, however, is a new passion. She started running longer distances during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As she grew to enjoy running during the early period of the pandemic, when she was an eighth grader, she improved at it. But running cross country for the Wildcats was not yet on her radar. White River Valley didn’t field a cross country team in 2019 or 2020. She didn’t think it was an option, but then a coach recommended she try it.

Competing in two sports in the same season can be physically taxing for Miller. Her coaches try to look out for her and make sure she doesn’t burn out. They encourage her to speak up if she’s struggling or needs a rest. Miller focuses on getting a good night’s sleep, eating well and taking at least one rest day per week to restore energy.

It can be mentally taxing, too.

“Especially when I’ve had a rough day at school, the last thing I want to do is go to three hours of practice,” Miller said. “But a lot of my friends are on sports teams, so it’s one of the only times I get to see them, so that definitely helps. The social aspect is pretty important to me. Especially with soccer; that’s a big reason I do it.”

Palone said balancing two sports in the same season is extremely tough, and she wouldn’t recommend it for anyone. Prestridge said it takes a particularly driven personality to pull it off.

Palone said Miller is just different than the average high schooler.

“She’s got her priorities,” Palone said. “She’s still an excellent student. I can’t say enough about how well she does it. I don’t know if anybody else could do it as well as she is. I don’t know anyone else who’s tried. Not like this. But this works.”

Seth Tow can be reached at stow@vnews.com.

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