Cross Country A Worthy Training Ground For Triple Jump Star

Elise Miller of San Pasqual HS is pictured competing in the triple jump at the 2019 CIF-State Championships where she placed third as a sophomore with a best of 40 feet, 2 inches. (Photo: DeAnna Turner)

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ESCONDIDO -- Odds are, San Pasqual High has the only 40-foot triple jumper in the state on the girls cross country team.

Las Vegas won't take that bet, though, because the Eagles' Elise Miller, third place finisher in the 2019 state track meet at 40-feet, 2-inches, is one of only two 40-footer triple jumpers in the state over the past two years and the other, Great Oak's Summer Stevenson, isn't running cross country.

For Miller, it's a way to stay in shape and, of course, have fun.

After running track for the first time as a freshman, she was looking for a fall sport and it made sense to get stronger by running.

"Me and two other sprinters decided to join cross country," said Miller, 17. "It was a team activity and it sounded like fun. Running three or four miles is hard and the best part of the meets and practice is finishing.

"It's really helped me a lot mentally, though. Cross country races are a lot longer and it takes stamina -- after that the 400 seemed really short. When I dropped two seconds off my best 400 time, I knew it had helped me."

It was during her sophomore track season that her coaches suggested she might want to try jumping, and the 5-foot-8 Miller suddenly found her niche.

In her first meet she triple jumped 35-5 but she showed her real talent at invitationals where she was seriously challenged. In the Mt. Carmel Asics Invitational, she improved to 37-8.25 and two weeks later at Arcadia she reached 39-8.50, finishing second.

In the San Diego Section Championships, she hit her first 40-footer -- a wind-aided 40-6 (2.4 mps).

Miller's competitiveness showed through at the State Meet where she led all qualifiers in the triple jump with a legal PR of 40-2.75.

She quickly found herself in fourth place in the finals but again showed her competitiveness by grabbing third place at 40-2 without the aid of any wind on her final attempt.

Now a senior, she was one of the lucky athletes to get in a mark before the Coronavirus shut down the state last March, winning the Mt. Carmel Distance-Field meet with a legal 40-5.50. That finished No. 1 in CA and No. 7 in the nation.

There was no doubt she was going to run cross country again.

When the state and section finally opened the door to cross country dual meets, Miller could hardly wait to join the team where she has been the No. 4 runner on the varsity, chipping in with a 20:35.8 for 2.5 miles.

It's not going to scare the elite runners, but that really isn't the point. While San Pasqual won state Div. II girls team titles in 1990 and 2001, this year's team is not among the section favorites, so it's looking to athletes like Miller to step up.

"The first couple of meets were 2.5 miles, which is great for her," said coach Pat King, who has guided the Eagles for 25 years. "She's just happy to be out there and she provides tremendous senior leadership. She doesn't need cross country to be a great triple jumper but she keeps fit and she's happy to be with her teammates.

"She appears to be quiet on the inside but there's something there you can't see. She steps up when the pressure is on, she has mental toughness.

"In track she's an assassin when it comes to competition. That's how she's wired. As she showed in the State Meet, when someone passes her, she comes back and does better."

Miller is planning to run through the cross country season and then, like every other athlete in the state, is hoping for a full track season.

Her goals are modest -- she wants to win the state championship and set the section record in the triple jump which now stands at 41-8.25 by Spring Valley Mount Miguel's Jackie Anderson set 33 years ago. Since Miller hit 18-10.50 in the long jump as a sophomore in the Valley League championships, she wants that 19-footer and she'd like nothing better than to dip under Erin Blunt's 1992 school record 14.35 in the 100-meter hurdles after hitting 14.94 in 2019.

Miller hasn't run an open 400 but her relay best is 58-seconds and she thinks it would be interesting to see what she could do in the event.

"I really hope there are big invitationals like Arcadia this year because that's where I believe I can reach some of my goals," said Miller, who was a gymnast as the youngster. "I know if someone hit 41-8, I'll do whatever it takes to beat that. I love competition."

It carries over to the classroom where she carries a 4.5 GPA which she'll take to Stanford University on a track scholarship in the fall.

"I'm competitive in the classroom, too, but it's not like I want to be better than the others," said Miller who has six AP classes this semester. "I just want to prove to myself that I can do the best I can."

It's the same philosophy that makes her a national-level triple jumper and competitive cross country runner.

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Steve Brand is a regular contributor to MileSplitCA and serves as the San Diego Section editor.