E.A. Sports Today

The next step

PV’s Miller goes the distance, signs with JSU; White Plains vaulter Moore signs with Montevallo

Pleasant Valley’s Matisse Miller gets a ride from his teammates Monday after signing to run cross-country at Jacksonville State.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — When Matisse Miller first took an interest in running track he saw himself as a sprinter. That lasted all of one practice.

It was with Pleasant Valley’s new indoor track program his freshman year and Miller wanted to run the 60, 200 and 400. His first run against the stopwatch convinced Raiders coach Brad Hood “he’s not a 60 guy.”

But as Hood later watched Miller train he noticed a consistency in his laps that would serve him well at the longer distances. Hood put him in the mile in a meet and Miller held his own against teams from bigger classifications.

Both coach and runner were hooked on the distances from that point and as Hood said Monday “it’s been nothing but positives coming from him.”

Miller went on to be one of the premier high school distance runners in the county by the time he became a senior and Monday afternoon signed to run cross country at Jacksonville State, continuing the line of top PV runners to sign with the neighboring school.

Even though the Gamecocks don’t have a formal men’s track team, Miller will be able to run one indoor meet and four outdoor meets unattached while at JSU.

“I love track, no doubt, but ever since I’ve been running cross-country for the past few years I found a new love for that and I really enjoy it,” Miller said. “I wanted to be sprinter because I had swam the mile and knew every day we’d do conditioning and I hated with everything in me; we had to run like two miles.

“I was going to do the 60, but what changed it all was the first day of practice we were doing 400s and (former PV runner) Matt Bonds came out there and I was right on his heels the entire time and running good splits. Coach was like you’ve never run before and you can hang with somebody who’s a three-time state champion, so that kind of blew coach’s mind. He put me in the mile, I did good in the mile and two mile, and it unfolded like that.”

And never a sprinter again – 400 meters is the shortest distance he has run since.

Finally healthy for a full cross-country season, Miller helped the Raiders to their second straight Class 3A runner-up finish Saturday in Moulton; he finished fourth individually in the final AHSAA race of his career (17:02.56). He had the fastest Class 3A time in the state going into the final week of October (16:39.28).

He was their leader in nine of 10 races this fall – taking one for the team in the race he wasn’t – and won four times (Scottsboro, Terrortorium, County, Sectionals). Outdoors, he is the reigning two-time county champ in the 1,600 and 3,200 and added the 800 title last year.

“There are very few kids you have to say slow down and he’s one of them,” Hood said. “I told him it’s like you have a big block V-8 (engine) in a Pinto frame; you’re going to rip the thing apart. He didn’t realize that until this year to kind of trust his training and listen to his body and he did a good job of that this year.

“One thing I’ve noticed about Matisse over the years was his leadership skills. Looking back on previous years I didn’t see a whole lot of that; it was more about how good can he be and he started getting a team mentality over the past year. His leadership and his ability to listen and trust his training was huge.”

Miller has one more high school cross country race to run, the Southeast Foot Locker Nationals in Charlotte, N.C., Nov. 25.

Across the county Monday, White Plains pole vaulter Matthew Moore signed his national letter of intent for the University of Montevallo. He committed to the Falcons in early October and planned to sign Saturday after running in the state cross-country meet, but needed an administrator’s signature he couldn’t get until Monday.

But the signing is not the end of the story. He wants to get to 15 feet indoors “by sometime in December” and jump anywhere from 16 feet to 16-4 outdoors in the spring. He cleared 14 twice last spring and finished second in the state meet at 13-6, missing at 14.

“I feel like I’m ready … but there are small little battles I’ve got to win to keep progressing,” Moore said. “This is going to push me now. I don’t want to go into college at what I’m at right now. I want to set more goals and jump higher … to give myself a better start going into college.”

White Plains county pole vault champion Matthew Moore signed a track scholarship with Montevallo Monday. (Photo courtesy of John Moore)

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