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SPRING SPORTS PREVIEW '98

Her Feet Are on Ground, Heart in Pool

Girls' swimming: Mater Dei's Miller isn't obsessed with winning titles, but when she's on the starting block, she has the killer instinct.

March 17, 1998|ERIK HAMILTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

FOUNTAIN VALLEY — Frustration should be the first word that comes to mind when one recalls the performances of Mater Dei's Jessamyn Miller in the Southern Section swimming championships.

After all, she has been runner-up the last three years in the 100-yard breaststroke.

But does she carry a grudge? Is she counting the days until May, when she may get her last chance at a first-place finish at the section finals?

Not at all. Miller, 17 and a senior, says she couldn't be happier with the way her swimming career has unfolded.

"I've been very happy with my workouts and I think I'm going to have a good Senior National meet next month," said Miller, who achieved her first Senior National-qualifying time in the 100-meter breaststroke at 13.

"I feel strong and my times in workouts have been good. Overall, I think my club and high school season will be my best ever."

Miller trains with the Los Caballeros Swim Club in Fountain Valley under Coach John Woodling. Woodling, whose lengthy workouts are legendary in swimming circles, has been Miller's club coach the last two years.

"It took me awhile to get used to [the workouts], but I've made some great improvement under Coach Woodling," Miller said. "We work out 4 1/2 hours a day, but it's really helped me in my swimming career."

Said Woodling: "Jessamyn is a great competitor. She's always ready to race when she dives into the pool."

Miller doesn't do the yards the distance swimmers do, Woodling says, but she still puts in about 60,000 yards a week.

As a freshman, Miller was considered one of the county's better swimmers. Although she was a strong contender for a gold medal in the 100 breaststroke at the Division I finals that year, Santa Ana Valley's Amber Wines won the event.

When Miller was a sophomore, Amanda Beard tied the national high school record in winning the 100 breaststroke at the division finals. Beard won the race last year too, but Miller was only a fraction of a second behind.

"I really don't feel any animosity toward Amanda," Miller said of the Olympian. "In fact, we're great friends. She's a great swimmer. But when I'm on the block ready to race, I have no friends. Besides, I can't sit around feeling sorry for myself. I need to train hard and work for my goals."

Miller has been doing that.

At the prestigious Swim Meet of Champions in Mission Viejo last summer, she again turned in some impressive time drops and won the 100-meter breaststroke in 1 minute 12.66 seconds.

Miller is working on becoming more proficient in the 100 butterfly. She finished third in the event at the Division I finals last year and was named to The Times Orange County's first team for the event.

As she prepares for the Senior National meet, April 1-5 in Minneapolis, she is eagerly awaiting her full-time return to high school competition.

"It's good to have that time off from the club and devote my time to high school swimming. I can't tell you how many friends I've made and the fun we have," said Miller, adding that the crowd excitement at a competition such as the section finals can't be matched at any club event.

"The crowds are so noisy, like when you're swimming your last 25 and all you can see is your teammates jumping up and down cheering you on and the roar of the crowd," she said. "I'm looking forward to high school swimming."

And getting another shot at the section's 100 breaststroke title?

"I'm not worried about it," Miller said. "Don't get me wrong. It would be very sweet to win the event, but I'll swim my best and see what happens."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

PRESEASON TOP 10

Irvine: Loaded with talent

Laguna Hills: Seeking third Division II title

Fountain Valley: Barons are strong on relays

Mission Viejo: Should win South Coast League

Marina: Could challenge Fountain Valley

Villa Park: The Spartans have good depth

Santa Margarita: Didn't lose much to graduation

Los Alamitos: An experienced team

Mater Dei: Jessamyn Miller will score points

University: Freshmen will be the key

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