Nasau, The BahamasOne of the most anticipated races at next summer’s IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona will be the women’s 400m where Shaunae Miller will be a strong favourite to defend the title she won in Moncton nearly two years ago. Should the young Bahamian succeed, she’ll become the first junior athlete – male or female – to win two global titles over the distance.
Last summer, still just 17, Miller displayed her big meet mettle in Lille, France, when she took the World Youth title, adding to her rising star power.
From athletic family roots, a rapid rise
Miller was born on 15 April 1994 in Nassau, the second of four children to Shaun and Mabeline Miller. She is the grand-niece of former Olympian Leslie Miller, the first Bahamian to run the 400m under 47 seconds. Her rise in the ranks was swift as her father and coach Shaun, recalls.
“Time flew by so quickly. I could remember when my wife used to run around the softball field not realising that she was pregnant with Shaunae. It was a bit scary, but I guess it was destiny.”
He also recalls that his daughter’s competitive nature developed early.
“It started with her mom teaching her to run around the bases on the softball park,” he remembers. “While at home her oldest sister Shauntae, who is currently in university, helped to develope her strong competitive edge as they constantly competed against each other as children. Shaunae, took the curves in the corridors with such speed, that I saw a champion in the making, she was very fast. She was always moving. Her first race was at C.W. Saunders Primary School and she came second in the 400m. She was not pleased with the outcome so she ran a second race with the same girl, and she won.” That was only the beginning.
Breakout year in 2010
In 2010, Miller was victorious at the Carifta Games where she set a 53.37 record for the under 17 girls race. Her winning streak continued at the Central American & Caribbean (CAC) Junior Championships in Santo Domingo with her 53.39 victory. In July of 2010, Miller captured World junior 400m gold in Moncton, Canada, clocking 52.52. She also established a new national junior record of 52.45 in her semi-final.
As she grew and developed Miller competed in various events including the 100m, and 200m, the High Jump and Long jump. Her success didn’t come without some disappointments, however. At the 2011 CARIFTA meet in Jamaica, Miller was disqualified in the 400m heats for the first time. She took her loss well, and like a champion vowed to return to establish her dominance.
She followed up with a 51.85 victory at the national senior championships in late June, a personal best. On 8 July came her thrilling victory in Lille where she clocked a tick better in 51.84 to become the first Bahamian female athlete to win both the World Junior and Youth 400m title.
“Having competed in the World juniors where I won the gold as one of the youngest out of my age group, I still found it more challenging in the World youth in Lille because the girls in my age group had put up such impressive times,” said Miller, who also has a 23.70 personal best to her name in the 200m.
“We knew it was going to be very difficult getting to the finals. I was successful in winning the gold in Lille and have a lot of respect for the youth girls 400m field.” In Lille, Miller joined boys’ Shot Put winner Jacko Gill and international superstar Usain Bolt as athletes who followed up World junior titles with World youth triumphs.
On the horizon in 2012 – World junior championships, and possibly London?
Today, Miller is a 12th grade student at St. Augustine's College in Nassau, and is a typical teenager who enjoys music, fashion and social networking. She enjoys spending her free time with her best friend Janae Saunders, quality time with her family, and is actively involved with various church activities.
Miller, who trains on the grass field on the College Of The Bahamas campus with fellow teammates of her father’s track club, Bahamas Speed Dynamics, is taking a step-by-step approach to her career.
“I am looking forward to the future and competing at the World Juniors in 2012 and possibly the London Olympics in the 400 metre race,” she said.
Long term, Miller wants to complete her collegiate career and move on to compete professionally. She hasn’t made any college decisions yet, but was impressed by a recent visit.
“I recently visited the University of Georgia at Athens and was very excited about the possibility of being reunited with fellow Bahamian Coach George Cleare,” she said.
Still just a teenager, Miller has proven to the world that she can wear many hats at the same time - a loving daughter, a supportive sister, a loyal friend, a great student, a team leader and a world class athlete. While still in the early portion of what will hopefully be a long career, Miller has shown that no matter what obstacles may come her way, through hard work and perseverance one can have it all.
Jeanie Bubbles Minus for the IAAF