By Jason Elmquist
CNHI News Service
When Nick Miller was looking to further his throwing career at the collegiate level, he was fortunate enough to find a connection to the states in his home town of Carlisle, United Kingdom.
Oklahoma State coach Dave Smith found himself overseas recruiting Tom Farrell to be a distance runner for the OSU cross country team and the track and field team. By happenstance, Farrell, also from Carlisle, lived just down the road from Miller and got the two in touch.
“I actually grew up with Nick, he lived about a mile away from my home and I feel he made a great choice coming to Oklahoma State,” Farrell said. “... We competed for the same club growing up ... and he was interested in coming to the states, so he contacted me and I went up to Dave and told him, ‘Look, give me five to 10 good throwing schools that Nick could go to.’ So Dave actually met up with him and listed off some schools.”
By Miller’s recollection, the OSU coach originally failed to follow through on getting Miller in contact with some of the top throwing schools in the United States.
“He said he would pass my information on to other throws coaches to help me get over here as kind of like a mutual friend, but I had to contact him because he didn’t,” Miller said. “He said he would, but the next day John (Baumann), throwers coach here contacted me. So I guess he didn’t pass it on to other people and kept it for our coach.
“At the time, I didn’t think to much of him (Smith),” Miller joked. “But I guess I know why he did it. I was in touch with other schools at the time, so it’s not like he closed all the other doors for me.”
Ultimately it didn’t hinder Miller’s view of the Oklahoma State University, where the Brit has found himself and has become one of the top throwers in the country. Miller recently won the Big 12 Conference Indoor championship in the weight throw — after having won the Big 12 Outdoor hammer throw title in his freshman season. He heads into the NCAA Indoor Nationals ranked 15th in the nation.
According to Miller, there was a even a chance he could have been winning Big 12 titles for a different school — Bedlam rival Oklahoma.
“In fact, Dave said the best place for me to be would be at OU when I first met him,” Miller said. “So me and my coach joke about that a lot.”
Now Oklahoma State’s track and field coach is overwhelmed to have the British thrower in Stillwater sporting an Oklahoma State jersey.
“We hit the jackpot with Nick Miller. He was a guy that we kind of lucked into because he knew Tom and kind of clicked with John Baumann,” Smith said. “He came over here and looked like he would be a pretty good athlete, turns out he’s a super athlete, he’s a phenomenal athlete. We just didn’t know how good he was.
“Nobody knew how good he was, otherwise he would have been heavily recruited all across the NCAA and he might not of come here. But we got him and now we’re getting interest from a lot of other throwers who have taken notice of what he’s done.”
A large part of Miller’s decision for choosing the Cowboy program instead of looking to further his throwing at an elite throwing university was the fact OSU didn’t have much in regards to a throwing roster. With Oklahoma State’s track and field team largely focusing on the track aspect with the cross country runners being recruited to compete in track as well, OSU hasn’t had much in regards to field athletes.
But Miller didn’t see that as a negative. He saw an opportunity getting to work with OSU throwing coach John Baumann on a more personal level — something he likely wouldn’t get at an elite throwing school until he was more proven.
“He watches like every throw, every day, so he’s constantly working with me,” Miller said. “The one-on-one bit just really helps you technically. I know speaking to other throwers, when they have like 20 kids on the squad, they feel like they never get coached or if they do it’s by their teammates and they feel that holds them back. So for a thrower, this is the best setup.”
It’s something Miller said is different from his home country, where an athlete has to prove himself before getting backing. And now, his country is calling him.
The Great Britain track and field team has taken interest in the Cowboy star, and Miller is more than confident about getting the chance to shine for his country. Miller said he has been in contact with British national coaches who want to see him perform at the world stage — which could mean Miller will find himself in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the 2016 Olympics.
“The angle is definitely Rio 2016, that’ll be my senior year,” said Miller, who has a karate background having won a national champion back home. “... For England, they want me to place top 5 at the Europeans. So I feel as a first year at the 23-year-old age group, if I can place top 5 in Europe that it will definitely be the right direction to be going and the Olympics will be realistic.”
While the Olympics still seem like such a long time out, Miller is happy at the present time in Stillwater and what he is helping build at Oklahoma State. Thanks to his success, OSU is now growing an emphasis on the field aspect of track and field. And Miller understands how significant his role is in the future of the program.
“I feel like John can use me as a way to sell the university to high school kids now,” Miller said. “... It’s kind of nice to see, especially for John, to have some good throwers coming in that he can work with.”
Jason Elmquist is the sports editor for the Stillwater News Press.