Freshman Phenom Brandon Miller Is Ready To Finally Race The Nation's Best
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If you would have been there at Turner Stadium in Humble, Texas, on August 3, 2016, you would have witnessed the exact moment Brandon Miller went viral. On a scorching hot day at the AAU Junior Olympic Games, the 14-year-old ran the 800 meters faster than everyone else at the meet, including 17-year-old Cameron Cooper, a senior-to-be who would go on to run the second-fastest U.S. high school indoor 800m just six months later. Beyond that, though, you would have seen Miller, with a near two-second negative split, run the fastest 800m performance ever for a 14-year-old.
And in that moment you would have realized this scary fact about Brandon Miller's 1:51.23--it could have been even faster.
Even with months to go before he starts his sophomore year, Miller just needs a competitive race to show what he's truly capable of against the nation's best. He'll finally get that chance this weekend in Seattle.
In a field chock-full of upperclassmen and seven athletes with faster PRs, the freshman has an excellent shot to topple both the 15-year-old age group world record and the Missouri state mark at the Brooks PR Invitational.
A St. Louis native, Miller has dominated the AAU circuit for years. No, maybe that's not quite it. "Dominated" doesn't fully encapsulate exactly how superior he has been in his age group. Since 2011, when Miller was 9, he's won every AAU national title in both the 800 and 1500 and only failed to break the national record once out of 12 tries. His tear through the middle distance scene has resulted in 11 AAU records in races that he's essentially running by himself. Miller's average margin of victory in the 800 and 1500 at the AAU Junior Olympic Games from 2011 to 2016 has been 6.67 and 14.74 seconds, respectively. He has yet to meet a match among his age-group peers.
Brandon Miller Timeline (Age 9 - 14)
**= Age group world record
Not surprisingly, Miller had a spectacular freshman campaign this spring for John Burroughs High in St. Louis. His undefeated season not only culminated in a Class 3 Missouri state team title for John Burroughs--with Miller's winning contributions in the 800m, 4x200, 4x400, and 4x800 serving as the catalyst--but also another blistering 800m that came attached with more superlatives: fastest among all Missouri classes and a freshman national record. The 1:50.84 Miller ran on May 27 broke Michael Granville's 1:51.03 from 1993, which aside from the obvious parallel implication (Granville has the U.S. high school national record, 1:46.45), put a new trio of elite 800m records on high alert.
By the end of the summer, Miller has a chance to break the overall AAU national record (1:49.78), the 15-year-old age group world record (1:49.72), and the Missouri state record (1:49.54).
Both the state mark and the AAU national record hold some extra significance for Miller. Fellow St. Louis track star and current Texas Tech All-American Charles Jones owns both records, and the two Missouri half-milers are close friends. "Blood couldn't make us any closer," is the phrase Miller uses to describe his relationship with Jones, who set the state record in June of his senior year in 2014.
Jones was a superstar in Missouri, but with respect to the 21-year-old 1:46 man, Miller projects to reach much higher levels than his mentor ever did in high school. Again, Miller has been running these outlandish times essentially by himself. Oftentimes, like he did to run that 1:51 last summer, he's negative-splitting by wide margins.
You can tell that Miller has been itching to step up to a stage such as the Brooks PR Invitational. Right after popping off that 1:50.84 at the state meet, a race he won by nearly four seconds, he was immediately focused on where the time put him in the national rankings. He wanted the golden ticket to Seattle.
"That's the first thing he did when he came off the podium was check the times to see where he was ranked," Miller's mother and John Burroughs assistant Angela Miller said.
Just days later at the Festival of Miles in St. Louis, Miller finally got the invitation he wanted so desperately. After winning the boys 800m in 1:52, the phenom found out that the golden ticket was his.
"I've been wanting to go since last year, since I've seen it. To be able to finally achieve it, dream come true," Miller said.
He's only a freshman, but when you've been this much better than your competition for so long, it's understandable for Miller to feel like he's waited forever for this chance.
Of course, there's no real need to obsess over every record that presents itself for Miller. He's 15. If he continues on the trajectory he's been on since he was 9, there are bigger and better records to come in the 800 meters. He'll eventually break the Missouri state record and do the same to the AAU mark at some point. Another eye-popping time could be in store for Miller at Brooks PR this year, but if not, this is clearly just the beginning. To that end, Miller and his mom are keenly aware of where he sits.
When asked what he likes to do outside of running, Miller proudly shares that he was a varsity point guard at John Burroughs this past season. Missouri doesn't have an official indoor season, so Miller spent the winter dishing out assists on the basketball team rather than circling a cramped 200m track. Miller's older brother plays on the team as well. And of course, Miller's mom has established the top priority for her son.
"It's school first, because he goes to a pretty rigorous school. So it's always just being mom first making sure his homework is done," she said.
When Miller set his age group world record last summer, he won that race by nearly nine seconds. After running the first lap in 56.5 seconds, the kid who had been crushing his competition for years at this very meet proceeded to unleash a 54.73 close that looked almost comical compared to his fellow 14-year-olds. Nobody else ran under 61 seconds for the final lap. It's not hard to imagine that Miller had a lot more left in the tank that he didn't have to use as he cruised to victory. There was just no one on the same planet as him that day, or really any day so far in his young career.
But that changes this Saturday.