Chapter 2: The Blue Streak
Looking back on it, I was quite spoiled during my high school years. I joined Upper Dublin’s team right as we started to hit a historical peak. The guys broke every distance related school record on the books and I had front row seats to one of the greatest triples in state meet history. But it came at a cost: I missed the four-year term of one of PA’s all-time greats. Craig Miller.
As a freshman, Craig came streaking onto the scene at Manheim Township, finishing an astounding 5th at the state championship meet. But he didn’t stop there. In May of 2003, Miller went to Shippensburg to compete in the 1600m at the state championship and dropped a 4:14.26 bombshell: the fastest such mark by a freshman in the history of the United States. He finished a hard fought third, after leading up to the final straightaway. It marked an over 40 second drop from the year before as his best 8th grade time had been just 4:57.
Craig’s confidence only grew when he became a sophomore. During the next cross country season, he went toe to toe with district rival Brian Fuller from Cumberland Valley all season long. The duo finished within a second of each other on multiple occasions, including some memorable duels at Carlisle and Gettysburg. Heading into states, Brian seemed to have Craig’s number, edging him out at the previous year’s state meet, Carlisle, and the District meet where Fuller edged Miller 16:05.70 to 16:06.42.
But the duo of Fuller and Miller would have their hands full at the 2003 Cross Country State Championships. Ian Gottesfield, the defending state champion from West Chester Henderson (also defending champs), and his teammate, Greg Williams, had been dominate all season, including a 1-2 finish at the district championships. They would also be battling Ian Fitzgerald, the 8:30 3k man runner from North Hills, who had hopes of individual and team gold at Hershey.
It was a very hot day for a state championship, so things were reasonably conservative on the course. Craig Miller sat 5th at the mile, Ian Fitzgerald in 3rd and Greg Williams was in 15th. Brian Fuller was sitting in 29th and Ian Gottesfield was all the way back in 43rd. In fact, the defending team champions of Henderson were buried back at 10th in the team standings a mile into the race.
Yet it was quickly revealed that everything was going according to plan for the Warriors, as Gottesfield and Williams surged to the front by the 2-mile mark and looked to hammer things, hoping to put the competition away. Craig Miller sat just off Williams in 3rd with Fitzgerald right behind him. As Gottesfield and Williams continued to hammer, they opened up a bit of a gap on the field: only Miller was hanging around. It looked like everything was set for a 1-2 finish by the Henderson boys with 400m to go, when suddenly disaster struck.
Greg Williams, who had suffered from dehydration and sickness at the previous year’s state championships, started to feel the oppressive heat again on the final, long straight away. Gottesfield, confused and looking for his teammate, was struck dumb by a burst of speed from the sophomore, Craig Miller, who sprinted away for his first state title.
According to a post-race interview by Gottesfield, the plan was for the Henderson boys to pull away and for Williams to take the win. Gottesfield said he couldn’t imagine racing his training partner and teammate and, seeing how he had won the previous year, he would let Greg take the title this year. But it wasn’t meant to be and Greg fell back to 15th place overall during the concluding stretch of the race.
Although Henderson captured a second straight team title and placed 3 men in the top 15 overall, this race will always be remembered as the first of many state titles for Craig Miller. He is the last male sophomore to win a cross country state championship in any class.
As just a sophomore, Craig was now a PA legend. He had set a national record, defeated the defending state champion in Cross Country and grabbed two top five finishes at states before the half way point of his sophomore year. His resume was already impressive enough to throw his name in a conversation with some of PA’s best ever, but he was still just getting started. That spring, Craig won the District 3 titles in the 800 and 1600 meters, running 4:14.59 and 1:53.95 to set a pair of district records. Then at the state meet, focusing on just the 1600, he dropped his personal best down to 4 minutes and 9.33 seconds, breaking the meet record and winning by over 5 seconds thanks to a 2:01 final 800 meters. Emboldened by this breakthrough, the sophomore extended his season through to the National Championships in North Carolina. There, Craig ran 4:06.76, just seven tenths of a second away from the sophomore class record. He finished 3rd in the nation in PA’s third fastest mile of all time.
Considering that he had posted some of the best ever times for his age in his first two seasons, the sky appeared to be the limit for Craig Miller. So when his junior season began, he found himself racing with a little extra weight on his shoulders: the weight of expectation. He rolled through his junior XC season, picking up some big wins and another state title. He even qualified for his first Footlocker Championships, placing 8th in the Northeast Region. But Jeff Weiss was the top PA finisher at the Northeast Regional, beating out the golden boy Miller.
During the next spring, Craig again laid waste to the state landscape. At districts, he one-upped his previous victories with a sweep of the distance events: the 800, 1600 and 3200. He set a meet record in the 32 and the 16, setting the stage for what everyone expected to be another state meet record in a week’s time.
On race day, Craig shot out of the gate with history on his mind. His opening 400 meters was 59 seconds. On his second lap, he didn’t back away from the brisk pace and hit the line at 2 minutes even. Sub four was on the tips of everyone’s lips as he continued to press on, well ahead of the field. At 1200 he had slipped, as was customary for the third lap, but he was still running strong at 3:02.1. Surely his record was gone, but would Paul Vandegrift’s state record of 4:03 also be under fire?
It wasn’t meant to be as Miller faded incredibly hard on the last lap. In fact, he barely managed to hold off the field that came charging after him on the finishing straightaway. When he crossed the line, his time was 4:11.98, over two seconds slower than his record time a year earlier. Miller knew soloing such a fast time would be tricky and hoped his state meet run would prepare him for a possible national championship. However, when he returned to North Carolina, Miller came up short of the title and even his own PR, running 4:07.19 and finishing with the silver behind Jeff See.
All of a sudden, there was just one year left for Miller to chase history. Maybe he felt it too as Craig really ramped up his game entering his senior season. He started things off with a 14:56 at the Gettysburg Invitational, putting the rest of the country on notice. From there, he was dominant en route to a third straight state title on the trails. He looked poised for something memorable as training began for the 2005 Footlocker Northeast Regionals and, most likely, the Footlocker Championships. But a few weeks before the qualifying meet, Miller suffered a collapsed lung during a workout. The condition would force him to shut down his fall season, keeping him out of his last Footlocker Regional opportunity.
After ending his cross country career on a sour note, Craig decided to run indoor track for the first time in his high school career. Slowly, he built back up to full training, working diligently and carefully to return to form. He ran and swam throughout the winter before running at the PSU Invitational in the 3,000 meters with hopes of qualifying for the indoor state meet. With much anticipation surrounding his return, Miller clocked an 8:38.65 to easily qualify for states and set up a shot at the indoor state record.
A little while later, Miller took to the start line at his first indoor state championship. He was up against meet record holder and defending champion Jake Walker of Ellwood City. But Miller was unconcerned. He took the pace out hard, going through in 65, 2:11 and 4:26 for the first significant splits. He managed to hold fairly close to that pace throughout, ultimately powering home with a 31 second final lap to stop the clock at an unthinkable 8:22.65.
The time not only smashed the meet record, but also set fire to the old state all-time record of 8:30.4, formerly held by Chris Dugan of Southmoreland. Jake Walker dipped under that record as well, clocking an 8:30.35, but he was still nearly 8 seconds behind Craig. So, one more time, everyone began to think about the potential of Craig Miller.
And one more time, the weight of the PA universe weighed him down. Craig suffered a bone bruise in his left foot in April and he had to shut things down, ending his prep career after an impressive early season 4:13. His final high school PR in the mile would come from his sophomore season.
Craig went on to run for the University of Wisconsin, where he had an incredibly successful career that included 8 All-American Honors and a school record in the familiar indoor 3,000. As a professional, he ran 3:35.48 for 1500m, 3:56.41 for the mile and 7:49.05 for 3,000 meters.
Ironically, the last Miller twin to win a state title in Pennsylvania was Brad. The “other” Miller had always been incredibly talented and had posted plenty of respectable marks in his own right. But he couldn’t quite deliver on the big stage, suffering from a variety of disappointments at the state meet. Maybe part of the problem was that he was running in his brother’s shadow so often.
So when Craig suffered his injury, it was exciting to see Brad rise to the occasion. He ran 1:53.2 for 800m and 9:09 for 3200m at the Lebanon Lancaster Championship Meet, bettering Craig’s personal best. Then won the 32 and the 16 at the district championships before focusing on just the 16 for states. With a time of 4:16.65, he was the favorite for the victory, but Max Brown of North Allegheny was right there with him on paper. Could Brad keep the state title in the family?
 Unfathomably impressive, no frosh has been higher than 24th since 2004 and only recently did sophomores start popping up in the top 5
 What’s amazing is that Brad Miller, Craig’s twin, was right there for most of the ride as a freshman. He finished an impressive 11th at the state championships in the fall and had beaten Craig earlier in the spring, edging him 4:29 to 4:30. Brad ended up suffering an injury that held him out of the spring stretch run and Craig took over. You wonder what history could have been like ….
 1-2 at District One has only happened once during my time (2006-2016): Brad Miles and Sam Bernitt did it in 2009. Close calls include Ben Furcht and Neal Berman (1-3) and Tony Russell and Reiny Barchet (1-3). Spoiler alert: Nobody has pulled off the 1-2 at states this millennium.
 To be fair, I’m leaving out that Miller got revenge at Nationals, beating Weiss, and was one of the top 3 underclassmen in the Nation out in California. He was 15th overall, which is still one of PA’s best finishes and the best we’ve seen by a junior in recent years. But that doesn’t fit the narrative I was trying to portray very well. So I left it in a bullet point most people will probably ignore.
 Remember that sophomore class record Miller was chasing? At the time, that belonged to Jeff See. The See-Miller rivalry continued post high school as both runners went to Big 10 schools and, ultimately, became professional milers.
 Brad strongly considered racing the 3200 meters at states instead of the 16, but Paul Springer’s blazing fast time at districts scared him off. Springer went on to run 9:01 and scare the long standing meet record while Brad, well, you’ll see in a couple sentences.