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Miller's dedication pays off

By KEITH NIEBUHR

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 18, 2001


INVERNESS -- To give you an idea of the kind of drive Citrus senior Rick Miller has, consider this:

As a sophomore, he badly cut the bottom of his left foot, and -- to this day -- it has not fully recovered. Despite the pain from the repeated opening of blisters, Miller missed a grand total of zero practices during his junior and senior seasons.

"He's blue-collar ... a workaholic," Citrus coach Tom Darby said. "He's a pretty impressive guy."

And a pretty impressive runner. Miller will leave Citrus as one of the school's most heralded athletes.

As a senior, he placed 13th in the Class 2A state cross country meet, was the school's boys basketball most valuable player and was second in the 800-meter run to Pensacola Catholic's Daniel Soule two weeks ago at the state track championships in Coral Springs. "The guy he lost to is pure quality," Darby said. "He's the best of the best."

Miller wasn't the best in Florida, but he was in the area. This spring, he earned Gulf Coast Athletic Conference titles in the 800, 4x400 and 4x800. He then placed first in the 800 in the Hurricanes' district and regional meets. At the regional, he set the school record with a time of 1 minute, 56.39 seconds.

"I wanted the state title, but I can't be ticked off finishing second one year and third the other," Miller said. "You can't have everything."

Miller, a four-year track letter-winner, primarily was a 400 runner during his first two years of competition. But in the fall of 1999, he ran cross country for the first time and the resulting improvement in his endurance made him a perfect fit for the 800.

As a junior, he earned district and regional championships, then placed third at state, where he clocked in at 1:57.70.

"The combination of speed and the work ethic he had are what enabled him to achieve what he has done," Darby said. "He's just a very strong, hard worker, and he has good speed."

Miller's work ethic followed him into the classroom. He will graduate next week with a 3.85 unweighted GPA and will attend the University of Florida this fall. Miller isn't sure whether he will attempt to run for the Gators.

"You never replace a guy like Rick Miller," Darby said. "It can't be done. The things he brings to a program are so unique that it's impossible to replace that."

BOYS SQUAD

ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Rick Miller, Citrus.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Fred Hudson, Springstead.

SHAWN ALLEN, JR., SEVEN RIVERS: Finished second in the Class A state meet in the high jump with an area-best leap of 6-4; also captured second at state in 2000; district champion and region runner-up.

MIKE BASS, SO., CITRUS: Conference and district champion in the 400 and 4x400; won 400 in Gulf Coast Athletic Conference meet by 1.91 seconds; sixth at regional in 4x400.

C.J. BRYANT, JR., CITRUS: Ninth at state in 1,600 despite being sick latter part of the season; won conference in 1,600, 4x400 and 4x800 to earn All-GCAC honors in each event; second in district in 800 and 1,600; third at regional in 1,600; member of 4x400 relay that was district champion.

JOEL CRANDALL, JR., CENTRAL: Seventh at state, second in region, district champ in 3,200; ran on 4x800 relay that was 14th at state.

JOHN EMERSON, SR., HERNANDO: The Times Citrus/Hernando Cross Country Runner of the Year finished second at conference and district in 1,600 and 3,200 meters.

STEVE FERGUSON, SR., SPRINGSTEAD: State qualifier in long and high jump, conference champion in long and triple jump. All-GCAC pick in long jump, high jump, triple jump and 4x100. Only male athlete to earn All-GCAC honors in more than three events.

JEREMY HENSLEY, SR., CITRUS: Third in discus at 2A state meet with season-best throw of 145-08; second at conference, third in district and fourth at regional.

TONY LYONS, SO., CITRUS: Sixth at state in 3,200, second at regional, first in conference and district; district champion and third at conference in 1,600.

BILLY MILLIAN, SO., CRYSTAL RIVER: District champ and tied for fourth at regional in pole vault.

RICK MILLER, SR., CITRUS: GCAC Male Athlete of the Year; also named Citrus Male Athlete of the Year; second at state in 800, first in conference, district and region; ran school-record time of 1:56.39 at region meet; conference champion in 4x400 and 4x800; district champion in 4x400; was third in 800 at 2000 state meet.

RON PAULIN, SR., SPRINGSTEAD: Second in conference in 100 and 200; third in district in 100 and 200; ran on GCAC's top 4x100 relay.

JOHN ROGERS, SR., CITRUS: District champion in the shot put; third at conference and fifth at regional to miss reaching state by one spot.

TREVER SCALES, JR., CENTRAL: District champion, third in conference, fifth in region in 800; ran on school-record 4x800 relay.

HONORABLE MENTION

CENTRAL -- Jerry Daniels, Chris Dyer, Kyle Keene, David Ramos. CITRUS -- Mike Brown, Jamal Galloway. CRYSTAL RIVER -- John Greaux, Matt Hinman, Robert Thompson. HERNANDO -- Gabriel Boze, Robert Donaldson, Derrick Mobley, Eric Williams. LECANTO -- Shohn Joyner. SEVEN RIVERS CHRISTIAN -- Bob Adams. SPRINGSTEAD -- Jimmy Hess, Alton Hughes, Sentell McDonald, Clinton Pierce.

-- KEITH NIEBUHR and GREG AUMAN

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