BLACKSBURG, Va. (WV NEWS) — Breaking the high jump bar has been something on Laurel Miller’s mind every day for the past few years.
“From sixth grade until this year, athletics has been a big part of my life,” said Miller, a 2017 Ripley High School graduate.
Miller was quite versatile in her youth and in high school.
But the high jump was his real passion.
“It became my thing,” she said. “I started in sixth grade. All through college, I was terrible.
These were his first jumps.
Jump into the 2022 outdoor track and field season and Laurel Miller last competed as a high jumper in the prestigious Atlantic Coast Conference as a member of the Virginia Tech Hokie program.
Let’s just say it was a major leap from those humble beginnings.
Although she admits to being below average as a high jumper in college, Miller wasn’t about to give up.
In fact, things got better in the spring of 2014.
“Something sparked my freshman year,” Miller said of that first season in a Lady Viking track uniform. “All of a sudden I went from 4-6 to 5-4 in jumping at the end of the year.
“I knew (the high jump) was my thing, it was what I was good at. There is something about it.
As a ninth grader, Miller tied for fourth in her major.
She improved with a second-place finish at the 2015 state meet while running a stage on a 4×100-meter relay team that placed sixth.
Miller placed third in the high jump as a junior and was part of a shuttle hurdle relay team that finished sixth at the State Meet.
As a senior, Miller came out with a bang.
Not only did she win the Class AAA state championship in the high jump by going 5-8, but Miller was part of two winning relay teams – the 4×200 and 4×400.
She helped Ripley finish second as a team. The Lady Vikings lost by the narrowest of margins, 82-80, to Morgantown High School for the Tag Team Championship.
“We had the perfect team at that time,” Miller said of his final season in a Lady Viking uniform.
The next two years — with the great Tori Starcher and the great Allison Fields leading the way — Ripley won the state title.
“I was so excited for them,” Miller said of the 2018 and 2019 squads. “They totally got what they deserved. As close as we were to winning my senior year, it was just amazing to see them win the next two years.
There’s a very good chance it would have been a hat-trick for Lady Viking Athletics if COVID-19 hadn’t halted the 2020 season.
With her high school career in the rearview mirror, Miller set off in search of the next challenge in track and field.
“You know, when you’re in the moment, you don’t think about those moments until they’re gone,” Miller said of her high school days. “Even before high school, I wanted to continue at the college level. I was not ready to let go (the sport of track and field and especially the high jump).
Miller earned a full athletic scholarship to the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina.
“I stayed there for a whole year. I was on a scholarship, but I only competed indoors (track and field),” she said of her freshman year at college. “Even though I loved Charleston and the school, I just didn’t feel like it was where I wanted to be.”
She was eight hours away from her home in Kenna and decided to start looking for other options.
WVU and Cincinnati were among the schools on his list. Eventually, she chose Virginia Tech.
“I came to Tech for a visit in the spring of my freshman year,” she said. “I knew this was where I wanted to be.”
And even though there were never athletic scholarships, Miller made it work and was really happy.
“I remember my very first competition, I didn’t jump as well as I had hoped. But just the experience of being there (in a Tech uniform) was great.
“When I was in high school, I didn’t expect to be at this level, but I was. Even though Charleston was a Division I school, the level wasn’t the same (as Tech) .
She dealt with injuries and surgery at Tech, but still managed to make fond memories.
“I guess that last outdoor ACC meet was my best (memory),” she said. “Knowing that I would never jump high again in a competition, I just wanted to be happy with my performance.
“It was great to be there. Knowing that I had been stepped on and that I was competing (in a meeting with top athletes).
Miller’s 5-7 jump earned him a 13th-place finish in the ACC meet. During the season, she finished eighth in the Torrin Lawrence Memorial. She finished fifth in the Virginia Challenge and third in the Bill Carson Invite.
In the 2022 indoor season, she finished third in the Virginia Tech Challenge. She finished sixth in the Hokie Invitational.
The 2021 season of outdoor competition saw her win the Weems Baskin Relays with a 5-5 jump. She set a personal best of 5-6 at the time to place second at the Charlotte Invitational. She also finished fifth in the Virginia Tech Invitational. Miller came in 10th at the Torrin Lawrence Memorial.
During the 2021 indoor season, Miller placed fourth at the Hokie Invitational, sixth at the Doc Hale Elite Meet, seventh at the Tiger Paw Invite (with an indoor record of 5-5.75) and eighth at the Championships of the ACC.
She missed the 2020 seasons.
In the 2019 away campaign, she finished fourth at the Winthrop Invitational.
She finished second in the Virginia Tech Invitational and ninth in the ACC Championships in the 2019 indoor season.
While in Charleston, Miller, who has four siblings, was on the president’s list.
Miller, whose best jump of her career was 5-9 1/4, hopes she served as an inspiration to other track and field athletes as well as those who compete in other sports to bring their passion on another level.
“If you love the sport and think you want to keep going, see what it’s like at this (college) level,” she said. “If you’re thinking, ‘This isn’t for me,’ that’s totally fine. For any high school athlete who even remotely thinks they want to take it to the next level, give it a try. If it doesn’t work no, it doesn’t work.”
For Miller, it certainly was.
“It was pretty awesome. I went to Charleston on a scholarship and I wasn’t happy. I went to Tech and said, “I don’t care if they give me a scholarship, I’m going to grow as a person.”
Miller earned her bachelor’s degree in human nutrition, food, and exercise. She is currently working on a master’s degree in public health at Virginia Tech.
In addition to school, she is doing an internship this summer and has a job.
As her days of trying to clear a bar in her favorite track and field event are over, one thing is certain: Laurel Miller is far from done aiming high.
You can bet this former Lady Viking star will soar in all of her future endeavors.