All-Area Boys' Swimmer of Year: Central's Evan Miller

All-Area Boys' Swimmer of Year: Central's Evan Miller

CHAMPAIGN —  Evan Miller might call himself an accidental swimmer.

His childhood years were spent participating in the vast assortment of sports available to youngsters in Champaign-Urbana.

“I had tried just about every mainstream sport there was up until swimming, and I wasn’t any good at any of them,” Miller said, “so I sort of admitted to myself that I wasn’t going to be a sporting guy and put a lot of time in on the video games.”

His mom, Karyn, had ideas beyond him exercising only his thumbs.

Thanks to an in-ground swimming pool at his maternal grandparents’ home, Evan Miller was barely
6 months old when he was first splashing around the water.

“That is where I learned to swim,” he said. “However, for me, swimming was something to do for fun, not for competition, and I really resisted joining a team.”

After his younger sister, Anica, joined and began thriving in the Indian Acres summer swim-team program, Evan Miller’s days of sitting in front of a computer screen quickly became more limited.

“Since she had such a great experience, I was forced to” join, Evan Miller said. “Right away, I hated swimming. I needed to get up early, and it took away from my free time, most of which I spent on the computer back then.”

Coaches saw potential in the novice, especially in the breaststroke. It was the summer after his fifth-grade year.

“There were a lot of kids better than me, and I was no star, but my coaches told me that my technique was awesome and that the speed would come with time,” Evan Miller said. “I started with the Heat swim team mid-seventh grade, again at my mother’s tender suggestion, and I hadn’t really stopped swimming until this past month.”

The years of practice, effort and dedication have paid off. Miller headlines The News-Gazette All-Area boys’ swimming and diving team as Athlete of the Year.

“What I like the most about swimming is the team dynamic,” Evan Miller said. “You always hear from the other sports about drama regarding who is going to be on the starting lineup or who gets to play in what game. There is no drama in swimming. At least on our team, every swimmer is treated equally by our coaches, and we get the best out of our bodies every meet, regardless of a varsity letter.

“The sport of swimming itself kept me interested because I knew that I could always get better, no matter where I was performancewise. Also, you never smelled the sweat.”

Though the high school swimming season starts in November and ends with state finals March 1, there’s a greater reality for those who are serious competitors.

“There is no offseason, period,” Miller said. “I know that is a very overused phrase, but if you want to succeed, you need to put the time in the pool. The longest break I take is the time after senior state to spring break, and then you don’t expect another break until that time the next year.

“It wouldn’t be so bad if the practices weren’t so hard every single night. That’s where commitment comes in. At every practice, every night, you will be in intense pain, and that makes it hard to want to get in the pool, but you know what it feels like to have success and you want to feel it again, so you just gather yourself up and get in the pool.”

Miller was the sectional champion in the 200-yard individual medley and was also on two championship relays — the 200 medley and the 400 freestyle.

Of eight individual non-diving events, Miller was among the top three in five on the final Area Honor Roll. He was the area leader in the 200 IM, the 100 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke.

“I don’t really know how that happened,” Miller said with a laugh. “When I was an underclassman, Coach Will (Barker) put me in a lot of events that I  didn’t consider myself to specialize in, and I guess I was able to perform.

“The way we practice, I get to do a lot of IM in the sets, meaning that I switch up strokes a lot. I did it at first to stop myself from getting bored, but in the long haul, it sort of worked out to me making it to state in the IM,” he said. “All the events that I was able to top the charts in really comes down to practicing more than ever, and just being in the best shape of my life so whenever Will put me in something, I could really go after it. I didn’t have an event this year that I didn’t want to do, besides the 500 (freestyle). Nobody wants to do the 500.”

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Next school year, Miller will attend Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis, with a major in motorsports engineering. He hasn’t yet decided if he will continue swimming.

“The dream is to graduate with that degree and then hopefully get a job someday in Formula One, working with McLaren or Mercedes AMG,” Miller said.

Even greater than his passion for swimming is his intense interest in anything automotive.

“You could say I’m a gear-head, for sure,” Miller said. “Any free time I have nowadays I spend designing, tinkering with or building my own projects, since my dad (Mike) won’t let me mess up my daily driver. My last project was a motorbike, a stingray bicycle with a two-stroke. It gave me a lot of trouble, so I’m currently in the process of building a three-wheeler from the ground up, welding the chassis and everything. I’m really excited about it.

“I like pretty much everything about cars, and more importantly, the idea of them, but my favorite type of cars are classics — mostly because it’s so hard to work on a modern-day car with all of the electrical gizmos. On the older models, you can reach in and adjust the fuel flow, air flow, suspension travel and so on.”

Miller will be in attendance next month when the Indianapolis 500 is contested, but that’s not his favorite form of racing.

“I have a sort of obsession with Formula One racing,” he said. “I watch about six hours of coverage of every race that comes on, and I’m always reading the latest news updates. The season starts after swim season and ends right before swim season. Thank goodness, or else I wouldn’t be able to focus. I love going to watch racing and I love the noise, the smell and the thumping you get in your chest from the sound waves of the downshifts hitting the pit wall.”

For Miller, the fascination with cars began well before he got his license.

“All of this started my freshman year when I got my first car, a 1994 GMC Sierra 1500, basically a big nasty white truck, that I proceeded to fall in love with,” Miller said. “I named him Geoff.

“The truck was one of my dad’s old work trucks and was really gross. I cleaned it up and made it my own, in the process learning everything I could about it, and that turned into trying to learn everything there was to know about cars, and that turned into watching racing and building my own vehicles. Geoff died in a car crash two years ago.

“I was in the car and made it out fine. The crash wasn’t my fault, thank goodness. Geoff gave his life to save me.”

Evan Miller, at a glance

Why he’s Swimmer of the Year: Sectional champion in the 200-yard individual medley and helped two relays (200 medley and 400 freestyle) qualify for state as Central won the team sectional title. Also, was the Area Honor Roll leader in three individual events, the 200-meter IM, the 100 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke.

I sent my last text to: my girlfriend, Olivia Reynen.

Favorite professional team:  Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One team

Favorite car to drive: 1997 Pontiac Firebird

Pet peeve: Dishonesty

Favorite restaurant: John Elway’s in Denver — “The best steak ever.”

Before a race, I’m listening to: silence — “I’m trying to concentrate.”

Favorite class: Autoshop

In 10 years, I’ll be: a trackside engineer.

Central High is: an underdog that never stops surprising people up north and a powerhouse to people down south.

News-Gazette Boys’ Swimmers of the Year

2014    Evan Miller    Champaign Central
2013    Jon Delzell    Danville
2012    Blake Lehmann    Champaign Central
2011    Kegan Skelton    Centennial
2010    Kegan Skelton    Centennial
2009    Mike Lacine    Champaign Central
2008    Mike Lacine    Champaign Central
2007    Chester Dols    Urbana
2006    Tyler McGill    Champaign Central
2005    Tyler McGill    Champaign Central

News-Gazette Boys’ Swimming Coach of the Year
2014    Tom Lockman    Champaign Central
2013    Ben Trupin    Champaign Central
2012    Ben Trupin    Champaign Central

Area honorable mention

Cam Barnard    Champaign Central    Fr.
Brandon Bell    Champaign Central    Jr.
Devon Bell    Champaign Central    Fr.
Patrick Clavey    St. Thomas More    So.
Dakota Crane    Danville    So.
Spencer Hays    Champaign Central    Jr.
Jacob Heinricher    Urbana    Jr.
Carter Huff    Urbana    So.
David Jin    Centennial    Sr.
Hunter Jones    Champaign Central    So.
Isaac Kasten    Champaign Central    Jr.
Riley Kemper    Champaign Central    Jr.
Bryce King    Sullivan    Fr.
Grant King    Sullivan    So.
Lucas Miller    Danville    Jr.
Dale Olson    Centennial    Jr.
Evan Peirce    Centennial    So.
Dalace Ray    Sullivan    So.
Heath Rogers    Centennial    Sr.
Will Smith    Champaign Central    Jr.
Logan Starks    Centennial    Jr.
Ben Storsved    Champaign Central    So.
Scott Wierschem    Champaign Central    Jr.
Blaise Willoughby    Clinton    So.
Tristan Wolfe    Danville    Jr.
Payton Woods    Champaign Central    So.