Rock 'em, sock'em, Rocksi

04/16/2009 22:32

LCC athlete making up for lost time after injury

Tyler Pell

Issue date: 4/16/09 Section: Sports

Sophomore Rocksi Miller has come back from an Achilles rupture suffered last year to qualify for the NWAACCs in three events: shot put, javelin and hammer throw. Photo by JB BOTWINICK/The Torch

Last year, Titans star thrower Rocksi Miller's season ended in disappointment - not at the NWAACC meet in Spokane, but a month before on LCC's track. While throwing the javelin during a practice, Miller went down in pain, and instantly knew what had happened.

"It wasn't my first time I ruptured my Achilles," Miller said. "I had ruptured my other one in high school, and I knew immediately what happened."

Miller was in the midst of a great season, having already qualified for the NWAACCs in multiple events.

"She was one of the NWAACC leaders in two or three throws and having a pretty dominant season, and we lost her with about a month to go," Head Track Coach Grady O'Connor said.

Knowing she had about seven months of strenuous rehab ahead of her, Miller could have easily called it quits on her throwing career. But that just wouldn't have been Rocksi.

O'Connor describes Miller as driven and focused with an incredible work ethic. It was no surprise to him that Miller was willing to put in the time to get back where she was.

Miller's involvement with track and field was sparked by sibling rivalry.

"I was actually in sixth grade, and [my sister] was in junior high track, throwing shot put, and I said, 'I can do better than that!' and that's what started me. She's my sister and I wanted to beat her at everything," Miller explained.

Miller took her talents to Glendale High School where she excelled in volleyball, basketball and track. But her road to LCC was by no means a straight line. Initially, Miller opted not to go to college after high school. "I just did 13 years of school and I was ready for a break," she said.

When Miller finally did end up in the classroom it wasn't at LCC, but at the nearby Umpqua Community College in Roseburg where she played volleyball.

After a season at Umpqua, Miller moved on and started what has been a very successful throwing career at LCC.

"What's impressive about Rocksi is she is not a specialist. She can do all four throws extremely well. Most throwers have throws they lean on. I'm sure she has a favorite, but she's pretty even from hammer throw to javelin to discus to shot put, as far as being competitive in all four. Obviously, from a team aspect she is very valuable, being able to cover all four throws," O'Connor said.

Miller's long off-season rehab began with two months in a cast, then two more months in a walking boot followed by about four months of rehab.

"I started out the season really rough because I couldn't train at all in the off-season. But it's getting better, slowly getting better," Miller said.

Although Miller wasn't particularly happy with her early season performance, O'Connor couldn't have been displeased. In the Willamette Opener on Feb. 28, the Titans' first meet of the season and Millers' first since suffering her injury, she took first place in three different events: shot put, discus and hammer throw.

Despite the strong showing, O'Connor said Miller is constantly on herself about what she can be doing better. "She is still working on trying to get back to the level she was at last year, but she had a significant injury and every throwing event there is pressure on that leg," O'Connor said. "I'd say she's close to 100 percent, but she hasn't been able to relax as much as she could last year. I think it's still a concern, understandably so. An injury like that - it's hard to put it behind you."

Assistant Throwing Coach Evan Lybarger believes Miller's improvement is largely due to her strong work ethic. "She has good effort at practice. From what I've seen she's made some improvements. She buckles down, and does everything she can to get better."

At the midway point of the track season, Miller seems to be well on her way to making up for last year. She has already qualified for the NWAACC championship in three events and has been named Female Field Athlete of the Week once.

But her goals aren't quite as ambitious as some would expect of a competitive college athlete. Miller said that first and foremost her goal is, "to have fun." She added, "I'd like to get first, of course, but I'd just like to get through the whole season this time."

Looking to the home stretch of the season, Miller hopes to continue improving her marks and get back to where she was when she went down last spring. "Overall, I'm probably about 80, 85 percent and I'm hoping to reach my peak by the NWAACCs."

According to Lybarger, that goal seems to be well in reach, with a month and half left in the season, he sees her improving everyday.

No matter how well Miller places at the NWAACCs, her body of work over the past two seasons has already gotten attention from coaches of four-year schools.

O'Connor said that he has been getting calls from coaches inquiring about Miller's future, a future he believes could be bright.

"She could play at the next level. Rocksi is very strong and has an incredible work ethic. She definitely has the talent and she knows that. But she can be her own worst enemy: she's a perfectionist, and when things don't go well she can get pretty upset at herself."

But Miller is still uncertain what the future will hold. "I've thought about it. I've talked to a few schools. I'm trying to get into the physical therapist assistant program here, so we'll see how it all plays out."

If she does opt to extend her track career, there will be plenty of people pulling for her. "It would be cool if she did [go to a four-year school], I'd love to see her progress even more," Lybarger said.

Rocksi Miller's personal records:
Shot Put - 42'2"
Discus - 125'
Hammer - 142'4"
Javelin - 134'7"

LCC school records:
Shot Put - 47'7" Jessica Marable, 1996
Discus - 161'10" Lisha Lass, 1981
Hammer - 167'11" Emily Brown, 2005
Javelin - 155'3" Whitney Harris, 2006