Craig Miller\'s magical prep career ends with injury.

Will Craig Miller – the reserved, extraordinarily gifted, relentlessly driven distance runner from the rural farmlands of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania – eventually join the exclusive club of sub-4-minute milers?

"Oh my yeah. Why wouldn't he?"

Miller's 1st of three state AAA X-country titles was in 2003 as a sophomore.
Craig's distance coach for his four year travel through and into the prep history books of PA is Terry Lee. Lee has coached some good runners over his years at Manheim Township, but says Craig is his best ever.

It would be hard to argue. Three-time state champion in cross country, and now permanent course record holder at the now-retired Hersheypark course (15:30). Foot Locker finalist (15th place, all-American). Two-time AAA state champion in the 1600. U.S. Freshman class record-holder in the 1600, which is also the PIAA AAA meet record (4:11.98 converts to 4:14.26). A near-miss (4:06.76) at the U.S. Sophomore class record (4:06.07 Jeff See). State record holder in the indoor 3000 (8:22.65). Four-time winner of the Gettysburg Invitational in XC, capped by a 2005 14:56 in his opening meet of his final season.

It's over. But it's also just beginning.

Lee had mixed emotions about the end to Craig's high school career... an end forced under the strong recommendation from his doctor at a visit last Tuesday, May 9 that the bone bruise was not healing, and would not completely heal without total rest.

Miller nearly gets the US sophomore mile record
against top competition at the adidas Outdoor meet in 2004.

Lee was thankful for the opportunity to coach such a talent. But he was obviously saddened by the news that Craig's prep career is at an end.

Craig has had a star-crossed senior season. Miller had upped his summer mileage and was poised to try to become the first-ever Foot Locker X-Country champion from Pennsylvania. That goal was dashed when Miller suffered a collapsed lung the week before the Northeast Regional. He recovered and came back stronger than ever. With just a few weeks of running after a winter of limited running, swimming and aerobic activity in the gym, Miller ran an 8:38.65 3000 to qualify for the state indoor meet, and then set a new PA record the following week with a blistering 8:22.65. This spring, in the cold and wind at the April 1st Bruce Dallas Invitational at Cumberland Valley High School, he soloed to a 4:13.51 1600. What turned out to be his final races came at a dual meet at Penn Manor the following Monday, April 3rd. "He floated to a 4:26 and then ran a 9:30." Fittingly, that final time was a track record for Penn Manor.

At the 2005 PIAA State meet, Miller went out at
near 4-minute pace for three laps, but will won
handily for his 2nd outdoor 1600 title.

Following his remarkable comeback in the PTFCA Indoor state meet, it appeared that Miller was positioned to take a shot at the PA 1600 record held by former Archbishop Kennedy star and future William & Mary sub-4:00-minute miler Paul Vandegrift, now a coach at Upper Dublin. That 1987 mark of 4:03.22, and a possible assault on the four-minute mile were often talked about over the past two years. Lee says Miller was on the path this year. "It has always been a thought I tried to avoid. All you can do is speculate now."

The injury first became apparent to Lee the day after the Penn Manor meet. Craig told him that the ankle had bothered him a lot during the latter stages of the 3200, and that he had been unable to do his cool-down. The X-ray proved to be negative, but an MRI was scheduled and Miller was told to return to the pool and bike and elliptical. During that time, Lee says Miller's work ethic and focus on staying fit continued to amaze him even more than it ever had. "His poolwork was at an unbelievable level. I watched in awe."

The diagnosis of a bone bruise came late in the week following the April 15 Shippensburg Invitational, in which twin brother Brad had PRed in the 800 in 1:54.91. The decision was made to treat Craig's injury carefully, and to stay in the pool and in the gym. Lee says he was worried that "the local Universal is going to have to check the warrantees on their elliptical machines."

The followup appointment came this past Tuesday. According to Lee, the doctor asked Craig to do some toe raises, and that he couldn't do it on his injured left leg. Miller had been running for a few days in an attempt to salvage his season, but had been favoring the foot. It was even bothering him in the pool. The decision was made that the wisest course of action was to "let it heal totally."

Miller's 2005 Nike Outdoor mile,
in which he was 2nd, was one of his two career bests
in the eyes of his distance coach, Terry Lee.

Lee says that his understanding is that because of Miller's inherent lower leg structure – the very gift that contributes to his vast ability – there are conflicting forces that eventually lead to the injury because of the increased workload and effort. "They'll try to work around it with orthotics." Lee is confident that Miller will be in good hands at the University of Wisconsin. "Once he is under the total care of a top collegiate program, with limited dual meets, it will allow his development to continue."

Coach Lee says that his focus is always on giving individualized training to each athlete in his charge, and that obviously includes the breakthrough season that is underway by Craig's often overlooked twin, Brad. In addition to the 800 PR, Brad ran a 9:23 3200 by himself on April 10th, AFTER doing a leg of the 4x800 and going on a 5.5 mile run. Brad will most likely run the 800, 1600 and 3200 at the PIAA District 3 meet next weekend, and then make a decision on his state events. And no, that's not a typo. Lee now refers to Brad as "Coach Miller." Lee says Brad has taken on the role as a team leader. "I trust his judgement. In my opinion, he was the best hidden recruit in this year's class."

Brad broke a track record of his own this past week, repeating his 1:54 800 after a 51 quarter 30 minutes earlier. (The Cedar Crest track record was held by now-Cornell runner Andy Miller). "Brad has always had that speed. He has been no more than 85% for the past two years. He is now responding to his winter training."

Lee is most proud of Brad's support of Craig and the team from the sidelines during his own star-crossed sophomore season of 2003-04 after he sustained a stress fracture in cross country.

And now, ironically, it will be Craig who will get to see his twin brother carry the Miller story to its final conclusion in Pennsylvania prep history.

As for Craig, the injury will heal in three weeks of no activity. "There are more chapters to his story, just not this season."

Lee says his best memories of Craig's high school career have to be the two great miles he raced at the last two outdoor championships, the adidas Outdoor in 2004 at NC State, and the Nike Outdoor in 2005 at NC A&T. Lee says Craig's sophomore 4:06.76 was his best race. Following a thunderstorm delay, Miller had to regroup and go through his warmup again. He was facing senior stars Gavin Coombs and Victor Gras. Miller didn't back down, and finished 3rd in a near-sophomore class record. "That race showed his internal desire and mental strength. There was magic in the air."