Voyager’s journey pounding pavement continues

LIHUE — Three summers ago, Island School’s Michael Miller made the decision to live healthier.

“I wasn’t really active before freshman year. In middle school, I was kind of fat,” Miller said. “Then I lost all the weight. I lost like 40 pounds.”

What he did to shed the extra weight was run — a lot.

“I don’t know how I became so fond of running. It just happened,” the Island School senior said. “My mindset was that I wanted to get better at something, and running was one of them. I could physically exert myself to my body’s maximum capacity, and it feels good. It feels good after.”

Miller competed in five varsity sports at Island School — cross country, air riflery, golf, soccer and track. Cross country and track, however, were his best sports.

He helped the Voyagers win the Kauai Interscholastic Federation boys cross country championship in October. He crossed the finish line first among the boys in the race.

Earlier this month, he won the KIF track and field championships in the 1,500-meter and 3,000-meter events.

“When I do something, I like to get better at it. Running was, for some reason, something I wanted to get better at,” Miller said. “When you push yourself through as much pain as running brings you and you finish, it’s the most amazing feeling. Especially winning a race, the feeling is indescribable.”

“I can’t describe it, but I think most runners will know what I’m talking about. It’s a high. It’s a high that people really dig, and that’s why I continue to run,” he added.

He attributes his success in the sports to his coaches and teammates who have helped him train, not only during the season, but also during summer breaks.

“The whole team, we were like a family. We were so connected with each other,” he said.

With graduation looming, Miller now looks toward the future. Big changes will come soon, but running will still be a constant facet.

Come fall, he will attend California Lutheran University, a Division III school. While competing in cross country and track there, he intends to major in exercise science and minor in piano.

“A runner that (Island School cross country coach Eric Wortman) used to coach, Ryan Perez, he goes there, too. So we’re going to be on the same cross country team together,” Miller said.

He also considered Western Oregon University, but decided on the Southern California private school because he’s already built a relationship with his soon-to-be coach, Brett Halvaks.

“I feel like this would be a better fit for me because I’m actually talking to the coach. I want to get to know the coach before I go there,” he said. “Coach Wortmann, he impacted my running career very well by keeping me motivated. … It would be hard to push myself with a coach who’s just there to coach.”

“I want to be an All-American. That’s my No. 1 goal,” he added about his college aspirations. “I’m going try my best to do that.”

Things appear to be trending upwards for Miller, who could have died in an accident when he was in fifth grade.

“I was ATVing with my friend. We were down by Rock Quarry. We went to this area that had a barbed-wire fence,” he said. “There was a turn that bent to the left. I took the turn a little bit too fast.”

“I didn’t know I was hurt until my friend saw me. I was like, ‘I’m fine. Just my wrist hurts.’ I didn’t know I was bleeding. He was like, ‘Look at your neck,’” he added. “It was pretty deep. It almost hit my jugular. … I probably would have died.”

Despite the accident, and the visible scars on his neck from it, Miller said he doesn’t have lingering feelings from it.

“It didn’t really impact my life like people would think. I wasn’t close to dying. Maybe if I was closer, I probably would have felt more traumatized,” he said. “I really didn’t think too much of it. It just happened.”

He looks forward to the next chapter of his life but will undoubtedly miss his family, friends and the beaches of Kauai.

“For one, I’ve been at my school for 13 years. I’ve been there since kindergarten. It’s like, ‘Started from the bottom. Now we’re here,’” he said. “Not being surrounded by the water is going to be weird. I like seeing the water, and the mountains.”

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