UI recruit not shy of work

UI recruit not shy of work

   CHAMPAIGN  She is believed to be the first Champaign gymnast to receive a scholarship from the University of Illinois, but you won''t hear Susie Miles say it.

   She didn''t even know until a couple weeks ago, when a coach informed her.

   Truth be told, you won''t hear Susie Miles say a lot about anything.

   "She is very quiet," Illinois coach Lynn Brueckman said.

   But don''t mistake stoicism for lack of enthusiasm.

   "She''s highly motivated, self-motivated. So much that it''s something you wish everybody had," said Matt Jager, a coach at the YMCA Irish Gymnastics Club where Miles trains. "If you tell her to do something, she''ll do it nonstop until you tell her to do something else. I mean, you''ll have to say, ''You can go on to something else now. I just needed you to do a few of them.'' "

   Miles, a 17-year-old Champaign Central senior, delivers her best lines with a glowing smile and a soft laugh.

   Jager, who''s worked with her for almost two years, needed some time to figure out the best manner to reach her. And read her.

   "She''s very modest. Our relationship ... it did take awhile for her to open up to me," he said. "Now I can get her to smile whenever I feel like it. She''s pretty reserved. She doesn''t really get excited and jump up and down. When she gets happy you''ll know, you''ll see it in her eyes. But she''s not the one who''s going to run over and give high-fives to everybody."

   The personality profile fits together nicely: quiet gymnast who works her skin to blisters to improve. Unassuming and unsatisfied.

   And it''s the remarkable work ethic that leads Brueckman to believe we''ve not yet seen the best of Miles.

   "She hasn''t peaked yet. She''ll be a better gymnast in college," said Brueckman, who tracked Miles'' progress partly through UI summer camps. "We find that particularly in the Olympics, gymnasts usually peak at 16 or 17. She''ll peak in college. She''s very dedicated to getting better."

   Miles started when she was 3 years old. At 12, she began competing for Irish. At 17, she accomplished the highest achievement of USA Gymnastics at Level 10.

   There are only 10 levels.

   "If you make Level 10, you''re competing a step below the elite level, which is what you see on TV," Jager said. "Level 10 is pretty much comparable to college gymnastics.

   "She''s the first from our gym ever (to reach it). In a way, she''s made a lot of neat steps for our gym. She''s done a lot of great things. She really doesn''t realize it, or even if she does she wouldn''t boast about it in any way."

   Miles, 5-foot-2 and pushing 100 pounds, won''t boast. But she says the scholarship is her biggest accomplishment, made possible through a greater commitment to the sport in recent years.

   She naturally began to spend more time in the gym around eighth grade.

   "It (became) more a part of my life," Miles said. "It wasn''t a side sport."

   She chucked swimming after her junior year, despite having reached the 1996 state meet in diving. In gymnastics, it''s been nonstop, six-days-a-week, gimme-something-else-to-do ever since.

   She heads into this weekend''s USA Gymnastics state meet at Illinois-Chicago as a force in the floor exercise and vault.

   "She''s what we call a power gymnast," said Brueckman, who expects Miles to work her way into those events with the Illini.

   But she''s made giant strides on the uneven bars, and it''s fast becoming her favorite, just the way Miles figures to be a favorite of any coach she encounters.

   "I have a feeling  because of her attitude and how hard she really trains  that unless she has an injury, she could end up being one of their strongest gymnasts by her junior year," Jager said. "That''s one of the reasons they took her. They knew she has a great work ethic."