Girls' Track: Jimson-Miller in fast lane
DANVILLE — Alexus Jimson-Miller is a state champion hurdler who often wasn’t the best at her own school during practice.
The Danville High senior credits her workout partners for the success she experienced last month at Charleston, where she won the girls’ Class 3A 100-meter state title and placed fourth in the 300-meter hurdles.
The Vikings incorporated their practice schedule this year, dropping a pattern followed by most schools where the boys work out at one time — or one location — and the girls at another.
At Danville, the distance runners — boys and girls — went through the same practice simultaneously under the watchful eye of the same coach. The hurdlers worked out as one unit with their specialized coach. So did the throwers.
“Every day, I’d warm up with the girls. Then we’d split up,” Jimson-Miller said. “I’d go with the hurdlers.”
Danville had one other girl — sophomore Shannon Brown — who hurdled. The boys’ team had junior Dakota Gash, junior Lonnie Buggs and freshman Christian Rogger.
“(The boys) are definitely quicker and more serious,” Jimson-Miller said. “Having them ahead to push me was helpful. If someone is faster, I’ll have to catch up.”
During the indoor part of the track and field season, Jimson-Miller occasionally would succeed.
“We raced quite often indoors,” she said. “I beat them a few times.”
Those weren’t the races she was focused on. Her goal was to be the state’s best female hurdler. Without the presence and persistence of Gash, Buggs and Rogger, she may not have attained her goal.
“I still would have done well,” Jimson-Miller said, “but working with them put me at a different level. No, I don’t think I would have won a championship.”
Danville’s hurdlers were coached by Steve Luke, whose official title in the program is as the boys’ track and field head coach.
Luke first started putting Jimson-Miller through individual workouts last fall.
“Alexus and I started working on flexibility and basic conditioning in the fall during her lunch hour,” Luke said. “By the end of the first quarter I realized the transition to working with the boys would not be a problem due to her strong work ethic.
“My only concern was how much she may outwork my boys. She had no problem completing the same workouts we did with the boys. B.J. (Luke, girls’ track head coach) and I started the concept in order to better utilize a very diverse and well-versed staff so that we could cover all the areas on the track. The cooperation worked very well, and I expect it to continue in the future.”
Jimson-Miller flourished in the work-intensive environment.
“Alexus not only thrived working with the boys but also excelled,” Steve Luke said. “She became a real leader by example. I believe the competition of competing with the boys in practice had a definite impact on her state title, but I like to think she could have accomplished it regardless.”
Jimson-Miller earned 11 varsity letters during her years at Danville. She participated in three sports all four years and still managed to finish 10th in her graduating class academically.
She is the headliner among girls’ track and field competitors, earning Athlete of the Year honors.
She said her peer group served as positive role models.
“A lot of that has to do with my friends outside of sports,” Jimson-Miller said. “I’ve had classes with the same people since middle school (at North Ridge).
“We’ve all taken honors classes together. We’ve all taken AP (Advanced Placement) classes together. It helps being in that environment. I hang out with those 10 or 15 people fairly often. We all basically keep each other in line.”
Area coaches appreciated the competitive — yet friendly — spirit Jimson-Miller brought to the meets.
“Alexus was always focused,” Urbana girls’ coach Amy Boscolo said. “She walked into meets ready to compete. She smiled and laughed, but she always looked determined and ready to win.
“She is always very gracious, both in her running and in her interactions with other athletes. Her form running hurdles is so breathtaking. She is a tremendous athlete and successful in the classroom. She is blessed with talent and determined to be a star. She will achieve tremendous success.”
One challenge for Jimson-Miller was to determine that track and field would be her ultimate sport of choice. As a sophomore it wasn’t even on her participation list.
“Soccer was the first sport I’d played, and I played it every year until my freshman year,” she said. “I talked to my mom (Kristy Jimson) about maybe doing both, but that wasn’t going to work. I’d done pretty well in track in middle school and thought I might as well continue.
“Because I had such a hard decision my freshman year (picking a spring sport), I didn’t want to stay away from it.”
She chose soccer for her sophomore year, though one part of her daily routine remained unchanged.
“I was left midfielder, and offensively and defensively I was running the whole game,” Jimson-Miller said.
Her words don’t portray an accurate picture of her middle school career.
Her term of “pretty well,” resulted in finishes as the IESA state runner-up in the 100 meters as a sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grader. Jimson-Miller also won a middle-school state title in the long jump and qualified for state each year in the 200 meters and with a relay.
“I never tried the hurdles in junior high,” she said. “No one was practicing the hurdles, and I was pretty fast in what I was doing.”
Wesley Brown was Danville’s girls’ track and field head coach when Jimson-Miller was a freshman.
“Coach Brown introduced me to it,” she said. “I like to try different things, and it looked like fun.”
She didn’t need to be asked twice.
“I wanted to do it,” she said. “There was never any fighting about it.”
At state in 2010, Jimson-Miller placed sixth in Class 2A in the 100-meter hurdles.
Jimson-Miller’s foray into soccer was a successful one. In 2011 she was second on Danville’s team in scoring (nine goals) and tied for the lead in assists (seven). Her performance earned her All-Area honorable mention status.
“Track is a different atmosphere, a different environment,” she said. “I missed it. I missed all my friends. A lot of seniors from soccer left, and I felt the track team was going in a better direction.”
Jimson-Miller’s return to the track as a junior coincided with B.J. Luke’s hiring as the girls’ track head coach. Though she was running in the spring, she didn’t participate in summer track programs after enrolling at the high school.
She preferred to spend her summer with her volleyball and basketball teammates.
“I’m used to doing three sports every year,” she said. “I’m pretty proud to be able to compete for my school, my city and with my friends in so many things.”
She can’t help but think ahead to a future when she specializes in track, especially because the height for collegiate hurdles is the same as it is in high school.
“To know I can do so well while doing other things over the summer feels good,” Jimson-Miller said. “I’ve thought a lot about when I focus on it the whole year, instead of doing it in one season, the progress I will make.”
She will get that chance at Miami (Ohio), the first college she visited. Jimson-Miller accepted the scholarship offer after also visiting DePaul, Illinois and Michigan State.
She plans to be prepared when she arrives at college. In addition to working part time at Danville Stadium, Jimson-Miller is already back in training.
“This summer, we are working on her core strength as well as a variety of events, including her first love, the pole vault,” Steve Luke said. “If Miami is looking for an excellent prospect for the multi events, they have one coming.
“When she specializes in one sport, her chance for improvement will greatly increase. Her transition to college, I believe, will be a smooth one. Alexus is a very special individual and one of, if not the best all-around athlete I’ve ever coached. I believe the best of Alexus is yet to come.”
Away from sports, Jimson-Miller deals with conflicting views on how to spend her time.
“As much as I like sleeping in, I don’t like sleeping in because I feel my day is wasted away,” she said. “As much as I like to relax, I don’t like doing nothing.”
In her infrequent idle time, she enjoys drawing and has distributed cartoons to her friends.
“I like to doodle and paint,” she said.
While eyes are fixed on her during competition, she tries to deflect the spotlight at other times.
“As far as talking, that’s not the center of attention I want,” Jimson-Miller said. “As far as running, when everyone is focused on what you’re doing, that’s OK.”
Long before the starter’s pistol sounded to start her final track race at state, Jimson-Miller knew her senior season was a success. It was because of her associates.
“There’s not any girls’ teams (at Danville) closer than my basketball and track teams,” she said. “We were all on the same page, with the same goals. We all pushed for each other.
“There was a lot of motivation being around my track girls. They expected a lot from me, and I wouldn’t want to let them down.”
In the first weeks after her high school graduation, Jimson-Miller doesn’t yet have a clear view of her future.
“Ten years from now I want to have a job I enjoy,” she said. “I don’t want to wake up and say, ‘I have to go to work.’ I want to be excited.
“I still want to be involved with sports, whether it’s coaching or running. I won’t be able to stay away. Sports have been my life forever. I don’t know what I’d do if I weren’t doing something (athletically).”
If her track record is any indication, Jimson-Miller will be fine. In the history of girls’ track in the area, no one has ever run the 300-meter hurdles faster than she did at state. In the 100 hurdles, she matched the all-time area Honor Roll record time.
Those marks confirm that she is on the fast track to success.
Girls’ track and field Athletes of the Year
YEAR NAME SCHOOL
2013 Alexus Jimson-Miller Danville
2012 Sydni Meunier Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley
2011 Sydni Meunier Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley
2010 Destiny Carter Danville
2009 Daniela Bunch Mahomet-Seymour
2008 Daniela Bunch Mahomet-Seymour
2007 Laura Morris Mahomet-Seymour
2006 Johanna Wienke Tuscola
2005 Mary Pat Choules Mahomet-Seymour
Coaches of the Year
2013 Jerry Hewerdine St. Joseph-Ogden
2012 Erica Kostoff Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley
Getting to know: Alexus Jimson-Miller
Season highlights: The Miami (Ohio) recruit was the Class 3A state champion in the 100-meter hurdles (school-record-tying 14.12 seconds) and the fourth-place finisher in the 300 hurdles (all-time area-record 43.55). She also joined teammates Michaela Jones, Ambrosia Williams and Emone Davis for a fourth-place performance in the 400 relay (all-time area-record 48.15).
A few of my favorite things: Allyson Felix ... Kevin Hart ... Calculus ... “The Notebook” ... Any sporting goods store ... Five Guys Burgers and Fries ... Lexus ... Pet peeve is doing nothing ... Babysitting ... Want to visit Florida ... Always texting my group chat ... Undecided on college major.
Three things on my bucket list: Vacation with friends, drive a Lexus and get a T-shirt quilt made.
About Alexus Jimson-Miller: “Alexus is very competitive in every aspect of her life. She enjoys the challenge of the classroom and the athletic field. She is different than any other Division I athlete that I have coached. She is very eclectic in her interests and is a most enjoyable person to work with. She is also special in the fact that she has been so successful in a sport that is dominated by year-round club athletes. She is a throwback to the days when kids enjoyed playing different sports, representing their school positively each season. It was nice that the only time I ever had to mention a class to her, it was for having a C+ in the class at the end of the weekly eligibility check. When I checked next week it was an A. She makes you a pretty good coach,” — Danville girls’ track and field head coach B.J. Luke.
All-Area Honorable Mention
NAME SCHOOL YR.
Emily Allhands Watseka So.
Becca Anderson Clinton So.
Mary Bass Bismarck-Henning So.
Kandie Bloch-Jones Argenta-Oreana Sr.
Mollie Bowman Sullivan/Okaw Valley Jr.
Elizabeth Bristow St. Thomas More So.
Rhoda Brucker Unity So.
Loren Brooks St. Joseph-Ogden Jr.
Nicole Choquette Urbana Sr.
Jess Clarke LeRoy Jr.
Carli Clifton Fisher Sr.
Emone Davis Danville So.
Taylor Edwards Arcola So.
Mercedes Elliott Danville Fr.
Rylee Fishel Arcola Fr.
Emily Foley Monticello Jr.
Bertha Frazier Centennial Jr.
Abby Gawthorp St. Joseph-Ogden Fr.
Jewel Goodly Centennial Sr.
Karly Goodman Arthur-Lovington/A-H Jr.
Arionna Graham Danville Jr.
Morgann Graham St. Joseph-Ogden So.
Avona Greene Centennial Jr.
Jessica Hall Bismarck-Henning So.
Kristin Hammel Champaign Central Sr.
Gen Harrington St. Thomas More Sr.
Randa Harshbarger St. Thomas More Jr.
Olivia Heffernan Fisher Jr.
Elise Hocking Mahomet-Seymour So.
Hannah Houska Monticello Jr.
Emma Hoyer Urbana Uni High Sr.
Kassadee Ifft Prairie Central Fr.
Brittney Isaac Danville Fr.
Michaela Jones Danville So.
Rebecca Kaefring Centennial So.
Klaire Karmazinas Arcola Jr.
Regan Kelley St. Thomas More Jr.
Jenny Kimbro Salt Fork Fr.
Hannah King Urbana Jr.
Dominique Lewis Centennial So.
Erin Lindenmeyer Arcola Sr.
Betsy Lovett Clinton Fr.
Janelle Marion Schlarman Jr.
Miranda Marry Fisher Jr.
Gina Masko Fisher Sr.
LaToyah Mason Centennial Jr.
Tori Master St. Joseph-Ogden Sr.
Twinkle Mehta Mahomet-Seymour So.
Allison Melchi Mahomet-Seymour Jr.
Jessica Melchi Mahomet-Seymour Sr.
Amanda McClain Sullivan/Okaw Valley So.
Courtney Monier LeRoy Fr.
Rachel Negangard Salt Fork Sr.
Olivia Ness Monticello So.
Emily Neuhauser Sullivan/Okaw Valley So.
Abby Nicholson Salt Fork Fr.
Abigail Nielsen Mahomet-Seymour Jr.
Megan Perrero Mahomet-Seymour So.
Toria Plotner Salt Fork Sr.
Mercedes Porter Rantoul Jr.
Alyssa Pridemore St. Joseph-Ogden Jr.
Bailey Reifsteck Unity Jr.
Taylor Renfroe Unity Fr.
Laura Seiler Unity Jr.
Jorriel Stewart Danville Sr.
Hannah Stone Unity So.
Kaitlynn Stumborg Unity Jr.
Hannah Swift Clinton So.
Jade Thomas Clinton Sr.
Carrissa Tinsley Ridgeview Fr.
Erika Tomczewski Sullivan/Okaw Valley Sr.
Ranija Turner Champaign Central Jr.
Maddie Tutich Monticello So.
Maggie Utgaard Monticello So.
Kelsey Walker LeRoy Jr.
Julia Welle St. Thomas More Fr.
Erin West Clinton So.
Lauren Whitehouse Mahomet-Seymour Fr.
Ambrosia Williams Danville Jr.
Morgan Witzke Clinton Jr.
Hannah Wright Champaign Central Jr.
Morgan Young Mahomet-Seymour Sr.
Final N-G Top 10
SCHOOL (previous) Comment
1. St. Joseph-Ogden (9) Spartans had state qualifiers in seven events
2. Mahomet-Seymour (2) Bulldogs had state qualifiers in nine events
3. Clinton (—) Maroons had state qualifiers in 10 events
4. Danville (1) Vikings had state qualifiers in five events
5. Centennial (6) Chargers had state qualifiers in four events
6. Salt Fork (5) Storm had state qualifiers in nine events
7. Sullivan/Okaw Valley (3) Redskins had state qualifiers in seven events
8. Fisher (10) Bunnies had state qualifiers in seven events
9. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (7) Falcons had state qualifiers in eight events
10. St. Thomas More (—) Sabers had state qualifiers in six events