Where Are They Now? Ashley Miller

Ashley Miller-Tipton-Nebraska© James Kirby

Ashley Miller-Tipton-Nebraska
© James Kirby

Sometimes Plan A does not always works out, or even Plan B for that matter in my case. What was once Plan A becomes improbable, Plan B falls through, but thank goodness there is always Plan C to fall back on (and I am not in any way implying that Plan C is the least desired option either).  So let me better explain my situation and how this talk of planning is relevant to my life, because much has changed the past couple months in regards to my training and living situation.

As of last January, I had every intention of attending the University of Tennessee-Knoxville to continue my education in their dual Public Health Nutrition graduate program and dietetic internship. Although my senior indoor campaign showed glimpses of reaching the next level running-wise, continuing my education was my top priority at the time. Of course, I would have continued training if relocated to Knoxville (I fully intend to continue running as long as my body will allow), but I was unsure of at what level of seriousness that would have entailed. My final indoor and outdoor track and field seasons at the University of Nebraska proved to be extremely successful with multiple Big Ten titles, All-American honors, and the opportunity to represent my university at the U.S. Olympic Trials, competing in both the 800 and 1500 meters.

At the Trials in Eugene, Oregon I was offered an opportunity I could not refuse; the opportunity to truly become a professional track and field athlete representing Nike and the Austin Track Club. In one brief meeting, I knew in my gut that this was the direction I wanted to head with my life since track and field has always been such a passion of mine. Competitive running is a sport with an expiration date, so to truly reach my athletic goals, my belief is that now is the critical time to invest majority of my energy to the sport, a major factor in my decision to forego the dietetic internship at Tennessee. Post Trials, not only was I planning to relocate to Austin, Texas, but was also informed during this meeting that I had to opportunity to compete in Belgium and hopped on a plan literally three days after I realized I was able to go!

During my 16 days in Belgium, I raced in three different competitions, explored the city of Leuven, and made countless new friends in the running community. My first trip overseas was so much of a success that I am already anticipating my next visit. To round out my racing season, I competed in a few more mile races back in the States, and took a nice break from training to recharge, which included intense Olympic spectating (thanks to The Next Level for keeping me up to date on all the event results), and planned for my move to Austin.

Whereas the Olympics are the main track and field spectacle of the world, giving our sport so much needed publicity, there are some downfalls to coming into the professional running scene on an Olympic year, and I was victim to this bad timing. At the conclusion of the Games, Nike-sponsored athletes cleaned house, leaving the company to pay out these athletes with large sums of money as negotiated in their contracts. Because so much money went into the funding and rewarding during and following the Games, cuts needed to be made elsewhere. This is where my future club suffered. Many of the members either retired, relocated, or did not have their contracts renewed, which left me in a difficult place. Either I could move to Austin and be the only female in my training group without a contract to keep me semi-afloat financially, or I could stick with what has worked in the past and where I am already comfortable; this of course being at the University of Nebraska.

Since August I have been living and devoting my life to training at UNL under the direction of my college coach, Dave Harris, patiently awaiting alternative contract deals. Currently I am taking a semester off of school to solidify all of my plans, but will begin graduate school at Nebraska this spring studying Community Nutrition and Health Promotion, with the intention of staying in Lincoln a few more years to complete my Masters, or as long as I feel like I am progressing the way I desire as a professional athlete. Training in Lincoln has been going superbly, so although the original plan was not to stay in Lincoln, after spending training a few months here training as a post-collegiate athlete, there is no other place I would rather be. Not only do I have access to some of the best training facilities in the world, but already have a tremendous support system and proven track record for constant improvement while being immersed in this program. I have been doing some of my workouts with the UNL distance squad, but since I am not training for 6k cross-country races, many of my workouts vary from the distance girls. Fortunately, my main training partner, Jessica Furlan, is on a similar plan as myself, since she does not have cross eligibility, but only indoor and outdoor track, so we do virtually all of our workouts together. Never in my life have I accumulated such a solid base, and not only do I feel fit aerobically, but also on the strength end thanks to many quality lifting and core sessions.

The most difficult part of this transition has been being patient with my training, and holding myself back from pushing too much too soon, since I intend to compete until August or September. My workouts have been very strength-based, saving the speed training until on when I am sharpening up for my 800 and 1500 races in the outdoor season.  During indoors I will most likely play off of my strength and focus more on the 3k. My racing schedule has yet to be decided, but I know I will compete in a couple of indoor meets in the Midwest and East Coast, and will be gearing up for the Drake Relays and the U.S.A. Outdoor Track and Field Championships, among other meets, come outdoor season.

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