May 29, 2014
By DARREN MILLER
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Zinnia Miller continues to live a fairytale that never gets old repeating. In fact, she added a new chapter Thursday at the NCAA West Track & Field Preliminary at John McDonnell Field.
Miller, a University of Iowa senior and native of Abaco, Bahamas, spent three frustrating seasons trying to find her niche within the Hawkeye track and field program. On Thursday she added her biggest highlight, finishing fourth in the long jump and advancing to the NCAA Finals from June 11-14 in Eugene, Oregon.
"It's kind of unreal. I'm sitting here wondering when I'm going to wake up," Miller said. "I am very happy and thankful, first to God, because I prayed and prayed for this for years. Now I have a chance to show everybody what I can do and it's in Eugene, Oregon."
Miller entered the NCAA Preliminary with a career-best leap of 20-feet, 4 ¼ inches set May 17 at the Big Ten Conference Championships. She bettered that on her first two attempts Thursday, jumping 20-6 ½ and 20-4 ½.
"I feel great. This is the time to peak, this is the time to qualify and that's what I wanted to do," Miller said. "It's my last season so I have to go out with a bang." Miller would not let weather become a factor. A brief clearing shower moved through the area as she and the rest of the third and fourth flights entered the runway to being warming up.
"All I know is when the rain came, it couldn't be an excuse," Miller said. "I came with one goal and that was to qualify. It was hot, so it was a cool shower and that felt good."
In fact, Miller said the rain added more focus and motivation to accomplish the task at hand. She enjoyed the environment and the John McDonnell facility.
"You have no excuse but to do well," she said.
It was a rare treat for Miller two weeks ago at the Big Ten meet. Her family traveled from the Bahamas to watch her finish runner-up in long jump and fourth in triple jump. The Miller's did not make it to Fayetteville.
"They tried their hardest to text me and give me any type of motivational speeches through text messages or Facebook," Miller said. "They said when you go to regionals, you're going to do good and qualify, so that's what pushed me."
If ever there is an example of determination, it is Miller.
"Having perserverence," Miller said. "Three years seemed like a long time, but once you stick to it and try your hardest, it's going to be a big outcome."
There is another element to Miller's magical senior journey. She returns to the pit Friday, attempting to double the fun and also advance to Eugene in the triple jump. This is the first year she has participated in that event.
Action resumes at the NCAA West Preliminary on Friday at 10 a.m. (CT) with the men's hammer throw. The first event involving a Hawkeye is the women's discus at 3, where sophomore Dakotah Goodell will compete. The first event for the UI on the track begins at 5, where sophomore Aaron Mallett runs the 110-meter high hurdles.