Henderson State Swimming’s Miller Family Breeds Swimmers

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By Rachel Ewart, Swimming World College Intern

ARKADELPHIA – Henderson State Swimming’s Jeanne and Jessica Miller chose a sport that they loved and decided to pursue it through college, but they did not know that joining a swim team could bring such unity between each other and their family of 10.

Growing Up in a Large Family

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Photo Courtesy: Miller Family

At a young age, both sisters began swimming for City of Lafayette Aquatics. The eldest sister, Jeanne, started swimming due to her fear of the water.

“My mom thought it was a good idea to conquer that fear and take up a useful life skill, so she encouraged me to try swimming,” Jeanne said.

In contrast, her younger sister, Jessica, never possessed that uneasiness about the water.

“I taught myself how to swim when I was three; I saw my older siblings Jeanne and Andrew swim, and I suppose it just came second nature to me,” Jessica said.

As more Miller children were born into the family, they were each thrown into the water to give swimming a go.

“Having eight siblings is overwhelming at times,” Jeanne said. “But, I’d say as a family, we’ve always loved the sport. It has become what we do and what our family is built on. The Millers breed swimmers.”

Having a large family seemed to be beneficial for the Millers; it meant a mutual support system between the siblings.

“I loved to stay and watch my younger siblings compete; we always liked to cheer for each other during meets,” Jessica said. “I want to be a role model for my siblings because I want them to keep swimming and make it to the college level as well.”

Swimming is something that has brought the Miller family closer; it is a common thread that they can all relate to.

“My parents sacrificed a lot for all of us to stick with swimming, but at the same time my parents loved it because it was something all eight of us could do together,” Jessica said.

Even though Jeanne and Jessica’s family always seemed to be growing, their parents were constantly encouraging towards the sport.

“It was easy on my parents in the sense that they could pull up with a van full of kids and just let them free at the pool, instead of making several different stops at dance practice or football,” Jeanne said.

Pursuit of Collegiate Swimming

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Photo Courtesy: Miller Family

After high school, Jeanne decided to attend Henderson State University, where she joined a swim team that felt like family to her. Two years later, the sisters reunited as Jessica also chose to attend HSU and pursue collegiate swimming.

“I honestly didn’t think about swimming in college until my junior year in high school,” Jessica said. “But seeing my older sister succeed in balancing swimming and school really motivated me to give it a try.”

Both girls agree that having each other on the same college swim team has been motivating.

“Having Jessica here keeps me a little more sane, because sometimes she knows me better than I know myself; she keeps me grounded,” Jeanne said. “I’ve always loved training with Jessica as well, we both push each other a ton during practices.”

Jessica admires her sister’s work ethic towards swimming and is also positively influenced by her impactful role in the team.

“It’s funny because Jeanne is team captain, so I have to take direction from her as a teammate and as a sister. But I honestly love training with Jeanne, she’s such a hard worker,” Jessica said.

This year, the sisters train together most days of the week since they are both IMers. That has led to a bigger rivalry than anyone else on the team, but they still both constantly push each other to get better.

“I kind of know I can’t slack off because I know Jeanne will pass me up if I do,” Jessica said.

At the same time having that accountability in terms of racing is motivational for both girls; it functions as an incentive for each of the girls to work harder.

Miller Sisters Leadership/Accomplishments

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Photo Courtesy: Miller Family

Jeanne had the honor of representing Henderson State at the 2014 NSISC National Championships as she qualified in the 200 butterfly.

“Jeanne has come onto this team and just took off,” Henderson State head coach Coak Matthews said. “I recruited her as a distance and 400 IM swimmer, but now she has truly developed into more of a versatile swimmer since she’s been here.”

Jeanne is a senior this year and has been HSU team captain for two consecutive years. She is also a recipient of the Bobby Cullen memorial scholarship. In order to receive this scholarship, you must be a three-time attendee of conference, be a team captain and also have made a significant impact in leadership on the team.

Coach Matthews states that he is also impressed with Jessica’s drive for swimming.

“Jessica has come in after her sister and led by example. She’s an incredibly hard worker, always has a good attitude towards others and also towards the sport,” Matthews said.

Jessica’s individual goal for this year is to break the HSU team record in the 200 breaststroke, 2:22, which is only a second off her best time.

Matthews believes that both sisters are incredibility beneficial to the team, not only in terms of swimming but also attitude wise.

“I think they come from such a strong, big family, and since our team considers ourselves a family, they have really done well at accepting their roles, accepting leadership and getting along with everyone so well,” Matthews said.

The Miller sisters were introduced to the smaller school atmosphere and excelled beyond expectation. Both girls are doing well balancing swimming and academics, as well as continually pouring their love into the sport that has drawn their family closer.

Rachel Ewart is a junior competing at Ouachita Baptist. Ewart has been swimming competitively since 1999 as part of Swim Omaha (1999-2001) and the City of Shreveport Swim Team (2001-12).