One morning a few years ago, Chris Miller greeted his parents with surprising news.
Adam and Helen Miller weren't expecting their son, currently a Grandview Heights senior, to give up the sport in which he excelled for one that many kids seem to dread.
Although Chris had become an accomplished soccer player, he wanted to compete in cross country. Distance running was in his blood, as his father competed at Ohio State in the 1980s and coached cross country and assisted in track and field at Westerville South from 1986-94.
"About five years ago, Chris said he wanted to quit soccer and run cross country," said Adam, who is a member of the Ohio House of Representatives. "I knew he had it in him and he was a good runner, but I had been taking Christopher to soccer games since he was 3. He's a natural forward, but it's good to see something he enjoys."
Chris is a three-time Division III state qualifier for the Bobcats boys team, and he recently moved up to No. 4 on the program's all-time leaderboard. On Oct. 5 in the Thill Invitational at Mount Gilead, he placed sixth in 16 minutes, 12.07 seconds to pass David Janusz, who ran 16:13 in 1988.
"When I was young, my dad put me in short races," Chris said. "It wasn't until middle school when I decided to run.
"I used to play soccer, and that's actually still my favorite sport to watch, but I got hurt too much. I broke my arm and got a concussion in the same season and figured it was time to change sports."
Coach Chris Szabo said Miller has been an ideal competitor for the Bobcats.
"I think Chris has been an amazing addition to the program for the last four years by running consistently, pushing the pace and now he has his name on the (program's leaderboard)," Szabo said. "He works hard in practice and has really helped raise the bar for the program.
"I think he has a passion for running and he's pretty good under pressure. He's pretty good when we get into a competitive situation, so he's pretty dependable."
Miller has been pushed by the performances of junior Derek Amicon, who recently overtook Liam Kerr atop the program's leaderboard. Amicon's second-place effort of 15:38.89 at Mount Gilead eclipsed Kerr's 15:54.92 from 2017.
Luke Evans is third with a 16:00.11 in 2013.
"We have been pushing each other in practice and we're motivated each race to be in front and push ourselves," Miller said. "Having each other to key off of in practice and in races helps.
"Usually we go with the flow in the first mile. If it goes out fast we won't make much of a move, we'll just stay with it because it will already be at a fast pace. If it goes out slow, we'll talk to each other and decide when to go (pick up the pace). Usually Derek picks up more on the second mile than I do."
Amicon and Miller dominated the boys race in the MSL-Ohio Division meet Oct. 12 at Buckeye Valley, with Amicon winning in 16:19.0 and Miller finishing second in 16:46.7 as the Bobcats were fourth (105 points) of seven teams behind champion Bexley (39).
Liza DeVere (ninth, 20:51.5) and Greta Tew (14th, 21:14.2) led the girls team, which finished third (92) behind Bexley (31) and Buckeye Valley (44).
Miller begins his pursuit of a fourth state berth Saturday, Oct. 19, in the Division III, district 1 meet at Hilliard Darby. The top three teams and top 12 individuals advance to regional Oct. 26 at Pickerington North, where the top five teams and top 20 individuals qualify for state Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway.
"We got to run (at Darby) last year, but it was super-windy even though it's really flat," he said. "We definitely like that course.
"Regional is a little different because you never know what to expect. In the last three years (at North), we've had snow, 55 (degrees) and sunny and rain in the 30s. You have to be prepared for anything."
Miller has a 4.25 GPA and wants to study environmental science at Miami University or Ohio State. Whether he will compete in college is still up in the air.
"I would like to run in college, but it's a lot more time-consuming," he said. "I'm close to being a walk-on for both teams, but I still need some work."