Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Parallel Sport Enhances Jumper Gymnastics Gives Boost to Fox Chapel's Miller

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Parallel Sport Enhances Jumper Gymnastics Gives Boost to Fox Chapel's Miller

Article excerpt

Mara Miller enjoys the take-off more than the landing.

She gets great satisfaction out of getting off the ground.

"Everybody likes to fly," said Miller, a sophomore at Fox Chapel Area and a top gymnast. "Gymnastics is a competitive sport. It takes a lot of dedication and you have to be able to do a lot of things well to be successful."

Miller is taking that same approach to track. In her freshman year last spring, she finished fifth in the WPIAL in the long jump at 16 feet, 3 inches. This season, she has established a personal best of 16-10 1/4 in a meet against Plum, and is poised to challenge for a WPIAL championship.

Miller and her coaches agree that her abilities in gymnastics have been a key to her success in the long jump.

"She is only a sophomore and she has the potential to be very, very, very good in the long jump," said Tara Pollick, who coaches the jumpers with the Fox Chapel girls' team.

"She's strong and fast. I think the gymnastics that she's involved in really help her with that. A lot of it is natural ability.

"But she is in shape because of gymnastics, and I think she is able to use that to her advantage."

Miller credits her gymnastics coach, Brian McGrath, with getting her involved in track. He has been coaching her since she started in gymnastics at age 10.

"In gymnastics, you have to be strong and quick," Miller said. "Those are the skills you need to be successful in the long jump. A think a lot of the things you need to do in the long jump translate over from gymnastics.

"I think another thing that helps is that I run the hurdles, too, so I train a lot with the sprinters. I think running the hurdles also helps me in the long jump. You build up a lot of strength and speed from running."

Miller just missed qualifying for the PIAA championships last year. The top three finishers in the event at the WPIAL meet qualify for states, but she finished fifth, just 4 inches behind the third- place qualifier.

Most of the other top five finishers graduated after last season, making Miller one of the favorites to win the WPIAL and advance to states this season. …

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