Carrington's Miller decision to choose track over golf turns out to be a good one

CARRINGTON, N.D. - Riley Miller was ready to abandon his short-lived track and field career not long into his freshman season at Carrington High School.

CARRINGTON, N.D. – Riley Miller was ready to abandon his short-lived track and field career not long into his freshman season at Carrington High School.

In a results-oriented sport, the gains weren't happening fast enough. He approached his mother Brenda about switching to golf, so she struck a deal.

"I said that the next year I wanted to be in golf, and she said I could do that if I didn't make it to state," Riley said. "Halfway through the season, I wasn't doing very well-I didn't enjoy it."

But Miller made the promise and qualified by place in the long jump at the regional, and that was only the start.

Four years later, the University of Mary commit has the state's top overall mark at 22 feet, 10 inches. He's looking for his first title when the Class B state track and field meet starts Friday in Bismarck.


Miller took third at the region meet as a freshman, which automatically sent him to the state meet, regardless of distance. One spot lower, and it would have been greens and fairways the final three years.

"And he's a very good golfer," Brenda said, "but he chose track."

Confidence was an issue early on, which led to Riley's desire to pursue a sport in which he figured he would have more success as a sophomore.

"I had jumped maybe 16 or 17 feet at the time and that was my best," Miller said. "I figured making the promise would be an easy out for track."

Brenda said her son may not have met the standards he set for himself as a freshman, which led to the change of heart.

"Riley has always set very big goals for himself," she said. "He didn't do as good as he thought he should have his freshman year."

But after Miller qualified for state, he chose to double-down rather than do the bare minimum.

He enlisted the help of teammate Scott Burnham, a state champion in the long jump. Miller also poured time into offseason workouts and strength training prior to his sophomore campaign, and it paid off as he finished fourth at the state meet.


"I ended up growing and getting faster," he said. "I knew it was something I could do."

Brenda remembers Riley's enthusiasm after his first big jump his sophomore season.

"He was so excited," she said. "It was like, 'Maybe I can do this.' He really flourished with Scott helping him, going to camps in the summer - he just had a knack for it."

Miller performed even better as a junior, though it didn't look as good on paper amid a crowded, talented field. He finished seventh with a better leap, but surprisingly placed better in the triple jump (fourth).

"I feel I'm a lot better at (the long jump)," Miller said. "It's more of a speed thing. Triple jump is a lot more about control, which I don't have much of."

When most athletes were spending the early part of the track and field season trying to get off the ground, Miller jumped a career-best that still stands. He accomplished his 22-10 on April 9 in Valley City.

Miller is pleased with it, but there has been lurking disappointment the past few weeks.

"I was ecstatic at the time," Miller said. "I'm disappointed, though, that I haven't bettered it all year. I've been stuck at 22-10 the entire season. I'm gonna have to do it again if I want to win (at state)."


Miller may be favored to win the long jump, but he has some work ahead of him if he wants to win the triple. Ellendale's Kelle'mon Hinton is the defending state champion and has a leap of 45-11, which is the state's top overall mark and more than a foot better than Miller's best (44-8.75).

Hinton is also the defending state champion in the long jump, which Riley hopes to change.

"We both have had some pretty good years," Miller said. "I'm hoping it comes down to him and me on the last jump. That would be fun."

Hinton is second in the long jump, and he may have had the state's top marks in both if not for a kept promise.

"I wasn't (having fun) at the time, but now I am," Miller said. "I look back and appreciate what my mom did for me."

What To Read Next
Get Local