Mary­vale coach suc­ceeds by adding fun to the mix

Miller’s girls have won past four IAAM run­ning ti­tles

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jeff Sei­del

When Ja­son Miller be­came the Mary­vale cross coun­try and track coach in the fall of 2005, the pro­gram needed to grow in sev­eral ways.

The team lacked a track to run on, so it spray-painted a 200-me­ter oval on the grass. There were only about 30 girls on the in­door team that win­ter and no out­door track team yet at all.

But times have changed at Mary­vale. The Lions will have nearly 80 girls on their in­door track ros­ter this win­ter; the school has a track and an out­door team and has won the past four In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion of Mary­land A Con-

Win­ter pre­view

With the high school win­ter sea­son set to be­gin, our sport-by-sport pre­views be­gin to­day with in­door track and field. See for polls, play­ers to watch and key num­bers. The rest of the sched­ule: Thursday: Wrestling Friday: Boys and girls bas­ket­ball fer­ence ti­tles in run­ning — two in a row in cross coun­try plus in­door and out­door track last year.

Top track and field teams rely heav­ily on depth, and Miller knew his Lions needed much more when he took over.

“We just had to get the num­bers up,” Miller said. “The girls were hav­ing fun,

“Bring­ing new peo­ple, I think they came out be­cause it’s a fun en­vi­ron­ment. I think it’s worked out re­ally, re­ally well.”

but we de­cided we needed to step up our game and make things more fun to have more peo­ple come out for the pro­gram.” Miller and as­sis­tant coach Kyle Rea­gan en­cour­aged girls on the team to bring oth­ers to tryouts. They ex­plained that track is not all about run­ning, and the girls might have some fun.

That’s a phi­los­o­phy Mary­vale’s pro­gram still ben­e­fits from to­day and why the team nearly tripled in size in 11 years.

“We’re al­ways look­ing at next year’s group and try­ing to plan out the fu­ture,” Miller said. “Bring­ing new peo­ple, I think they came out be­cause it’s a fun en­vi­ron­ment. I think it’s worked out re­ally, re­ally well.”

Miller and his staff do a lot to keep things fun while the ath­letes put in the nec­es­sary Ja­son Miller hard work. If the girls are in the gym, the coaches blast plenty of mu­sic — and they do the same if the ath­letes are work­ing with weights. Some groups do a “Se­cret Santa” while oth­ers do a “Race Sis­ters” event, where girls ex­change presents be­fore a race or send notes of en­cour­age­ment.

The night be­fore a cham­pi­onship meet, Miller takes the team to his mother’s house for a meal, and the team talks, re­laxes and spends the evening to­gether. Miller said they work hard at keep­ing the en­vi­ron­ment as loose as pos­si­ble for the girls all the time, even though they con­stantly work out­doors dur­ing the win­ter. And the team has no­ticed. “We all love com­ing to prac­tice be­cause we know we’re go­ing to be laugh­ing and hav­ing fun,” top dis­tance run­ner Emily Craig said. “I know that, es­pe­cially when we’re do­ing hard work­outs, it helps so much be­cause we’re all cheer­ing for each other.”

Adam Hit­tner is one of Here­ford’s track coaches, and he ran with Miller in col­lege at Tow­son. Hit­tner worked with Miller at times years ago and said the coach’s en­thu­si­asm sim­ply caught on at Mary­vale.

“The coaches were ex­tremely passionate about build­ing that pro­gram al­most com­pletely from scratch,” Hit­tner said. “They [got] the girls in the school ex­cited about it, and it proved to be in­fec­tious.”

The suc­cess also feels good. Mary­vale came close a few times be­fore fi­nally break­ing through last fall and win­ning the cross coun­try ti­tle. Af­ter that, the Lions won the in­door and out­door crowns, and they did it again with cross coun­try in the fall.

“When you win a ban­ner, it feels great to win,” Craig said. “It’s just go­ing to want to make you keep win­ning.”

Said Mary­vale se­nior Court­ney Kenny: “I think it’s just made our track team seem to be more some­thing peo­ple take se­ri­ously” at school.

Miller said win­ning out­doors last year af­ter tak­ing the in­door IAAM ti­tle could be a big plus this win­ter since track is dif­fer­ent from cross coun­try, a sport that in­volves just dis­tance run­ning.

“I think it helps us out a lot,” he said. “Know­ing what we were able to ac­com­plish in out­door track and who we have re­turn­ing, that should help us in in­door.”

Mary­vale works hard and won’t ease up just be­cause it has won a bunch of cham­pi­onships in a row. Sim­ply put, the Lions want more.

They hope to win all three ti­tles in a school year for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive time. The Lions are far past just want­ing to be com­pet­i­tive.

“We’re just go­ing to keep build­ing the pro­gram and have fun while do­ing it,” Miller said.

Mary­vale coach Ja­son Miller

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