By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Lining up for the 6A OSAA Finals for the 200 meter dash, one of eight girls to be doing so, was a freshman.
As Rebekah Miller takes her mark for the half-lap race, she thinks about her approach to the race, having already clinched a fifth-place finish in the 100 meter finals and sixth in the triple jump to her name; the nerves that started underneath the stadium followed her out to the starting blocks.
“When we’re underneath the stadium, getting ready to take us out, I was a little bit shakey and nervous,” started Miller. “But I was taking deep breaths, ‘you can do this, you’ve made it here’. Into the blocks I was like, ‘I just need to run and not to think about anything. I just need to run’.
The journey to this point has been an interesting one for the frosh, starting when she was just an eighth-grader at Houck Middle School as even there Viking Head Coach Don Berger was influencing the future of the North Salem Program.
“My eighth-grade year, Coach Berger was helping me out then too and we were looking forward to me getting to High School and finally racing with the bigger kids,” said Miller “It’s been a really exciting journey, I have a really supportive team and the coaches have been really supportive too. They’ve been right for me, through my ups and downs.
“ If I had a tough week, they’ve been there, helping me get through it and stuff. When we have a tough workout, they’ve pushed me through it. ‘if we can do this, then we all can do this. We can get through it together’. It’s been a wavey journey, but I’ve been really excited to have a chance to compete at State and finish well.”
The whistle blows, Miller has a rough start out of the blocks; but the frosh regained her focus as she rallied back.
“I was like, ‘I got this and I can do it’ and with all the motivation from everyone helped that too with the encouragement, ‘you can do this’ that I can do this,” described Miller about the race.
24.85 seconds after the gun, Miller found herself as State Champion. Outlasting Barlow’s Sara Turner by 0.21 seconds and Tigard’s Lauren Pavern, breaking a record in the process.
She was ecstatic. The win capped a season of breaking records and setting the gold standard entering the rest of her high school career at North Salem High School.
“I was thinking, ‘No Way, what is this’ as soon as I crossed the finish line,” Miller said with a smile. “I looked at the scoreboard and see what the times were and I saw my name in the first-place spot I was really excited, like this was the hard work that I put in, this was what I came for. This is what I’ve been training for this whole season.”
Head Coach Don Berger expressed how exciting it was to see Miller perform at this high standard in just her freshman year.
And being impressed is a understatement.
“I’ve been doing this for almost 40 years and I had 60-something individual State Champions and this is one of the top ones,” said Berger. “To see where she was to State Champions is incredible. The cool thing is she’s very coachable; she soaks in what we have to say.
“If we say, ‘here’s our lesson for the week’ we weren’t going to work on keeping your chin down more coming out of the block, she’s already doing that already. We talked about the different phases of the 200 or whatever, she’s already working on it right away. You break it down early so they can run a race and she already does all of it, she’s very coachable and it’s very impressive.”
With her getting media attention from a variety of news outlets since her State Title run, Miller knows she has to stay within herself.
Knowing that it’s just one year of a four-year journey that she just started to embark on.
“It’s really exciting being recognized and stuff but really it’s like, ‘it’s my freshman year, I’ve set the bar’ and here it’s now going to be higher and know that I set the bar, I know where I need to be at,” Miller said.
Reflecting on her freshman year though, through it all; Miller didn’t focus on breaking records, she didn’t even know the records at North Salem High School entering this year, all Miller wanted was to PR.
“I was really more focused on breaking my own records, like running faster than my previous times,” she said. “I haven’t really looked much into the record at North but I just wanted to compete against myself. But I didn’t expect to break these records at North.”
Entering her sophomore year, Miller hasn’t felt any sort of pressure to duplicate her freshman success because of all of the support from her team and her coaches as she continues to get better entering her second season in the Black and Red.
“The team has been really supportive and so are my coaches and they don’t put any pressure on me on winning all of this stuff, just go out and do your best,” Miller said. “Next year, if I don’t get the State Title, I don’t get the State Title. But if I didn’t try my hardest and that’s why I didn’t get it, then I’ll feel disappointed.
“But if I tried my hardest and I still didn’t get it, I’ll still be satisfied with myself. Next Year, I want to be able to run a little bit faster and PR hopefully.”
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