WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Redshirt freshman Samara Miller was named the Big Ten Track Athlete of the Week the conference office announced Wednesday. Miller picked up the honor after running the No. 2 time in the nation in the 600-meter run at the Fred Wilt Open over the weekend.
The award is the first of Miller’s career. She is the first Boilermaker to receive a weekly honor since Symone Black on Dec. 13, 2017 in the Boilermakers’ season-opener. She is the first freshman in the Big Ten to be honored with a track or field award on the women’s side this year, and just the second in the last three indoor seasons. The last freshman Purdue woman to earn a Big Ten Track Athlete of the Week honor indoors was Ebony Woodard on Feb. 21, 2011. Miller and Woodard are the only two women in school history to earn an indoor track weekly honor as a freshman.
Miller won the 600-meter run with a time of 1:30.37 seconds on Purdue’s 200-meter flat track. That in itself ranks second in school history. The time converts to 1:29.28 on a banked track, which, this year, is the second-fastest time in the nation, the best in the Big Ten, and nearly a second better than Purdue’s school-record time of 1:30.24, run by Rachel Stalzer at the 2010 Big Ten Championships.
Miller’s path to running track is different than most. The Naperville, Illinois, native spent most of her young life with a passion for dance. She had a special school schedule to accommodate for her countless hours of ballet. Despite her love for the emotional journey that dance would lead, a life-changing event in 2012 when she was 13-years old led her to trade in her ballet pointe shoes for spikes.
That event was the loss of her beloved uncle, Keith Miller. Keith was a track legend who always saw the track potential in Samara. He told her that he thought she could be great, despite her only running a little bit in seventh grade. Though she wasn’t sure before, it was then that she truly knew she had to run track for him.
From that moment on, Miller knew every time she stepped onto a track her uncle was with her. She would carry his legacy while fulfilling her own. His death was a turning point in her life, both emotionally and physically. Miller realized it was time to trade her grace in dance for aggression on the track. Even before she knew she wanted to run collegiately, which came during her junior year of high school, it was important to her to see her uncle’s vision through and realize her talents on the track.
Then came the success, the college offers and the satisfaction of knowing her uncle was smiling down on her.
After Miller’s junior year, Purdue head coach Lonnie Greene offered. Purdue had everything she wanted: a family atmosphere, program success and a top-notch coaching staff. So, she decided to commit. After signing with the Boilermakers, Miller went on to win a 400-meter national championship with the third-fastest time ever run by an Illinois high schoole and the fastest that year.
Uncle Keith was smiling.
Now, it’s time for the collegiate success. In her first indoor season, Miller’s already No. 2 in the country in the 600-meter run, an achievement many never reach, and just the second freshman in school history to be named the Big Ten Track Athlete of the Week indoors. She already made a 400-meter final at Big Tens last year outdoors, after battling back from an injury that cost her the indoor season, and helped her team win the conference title.
All that, and yet it’s just the beginning for the freshman in her quest to realize her uncle’s dream.
Miller’s path continues this weekend as the Boilermakers head to Kentucky for the Rod McCravy Invitational. She’s scheduled to compete in the 400-meter dash and 4x400-meter relay. One thing’s for certain; when Miller steps into the blocks, she’ll hear Uncle Keith telling her, “Let’s go get ‘em.”