Kimberley cross-country skier Molly Miller finished third and on the podium at the German Nationals on January 30 in the skate sprint for U16 racers. She followed that up with a fourth place a few days later in a classic distance race.
And, Mom Kim says, except for a late start in her second race, she likely would have won.
“She’s doing great. She was devastated for her second race when she missed the start. She was five minutes late to the start. There was some miscommunication and language issues. This was her specialty and she expected to do well. When she looked at the results, without the extra five minutes, she would have won. That was hard for her to come to terms with.”
But Miller pulled it together and had a fourth in race number three.
Molly described her race experience to Cross Country Canada.
“Coming into today it was hard to set an expectation for myself, because truly I had no idea where I stood amongst these girls. Although racing with a totally new crowd can be a little scary, it was also a good thing because really I had nothing to lose and so much to gain.
“After the qualifier, I did not feel as though I had performed to the best of my abilities. Once I saw I had actually qualified in 4th, I was pleased, surprised and very excited. How did I come 4th if I was so slow? I thought.
“Realizing I was in potential medal contention made me so excited to start the heats! In the quarter, I decided to go off hard from the start to get a lead on the others. This was because with many technical corners and icy hills, I could have the luxury of choosing the best lane and keeping things safe.
“Finishing the quarter in first, left me wondering if I had played it too safe and perhaps spent more energy than needed. Having just over half an hour between quarters and semis left lots of time to rest up for the heat.
“In the semi, the pace off the start was relatively slow, but quickly picked up throughout the course. Finishing in 3rd, I was happy to secure my spot in the final.
With only ten minutes rest in between the semi and final, I was back on the line before I knew it. At the beginning of the final, I was sitting in 5th place with quite a gap between third and fourth. Although it felt ambitious for me to move up into medal contention, I hadn’t let go of trying to catch those girls.
“Nearing the finish, I sat right behind third, after she stumbled on the last hill. When I passed her, at first she tried to fight it out, but was just too dead to hold the spot. Feeling as though I had barely enough power to sprint the finish, I decided to give it everything I’ve got, whether gaining me a spot or not.
“In the end, I had a great experience racing for the first time on European soil, as well as racing for Canada.
“A huge thanks to our wonderful coaching crew on the tour- Tim Wintoniw, Chris Manhard and Chris Serratore. Also Fischer and Swix for all the support. As well as my coaches back at home, Frank Ackermann and Nicole Perrin. Also, my outstanding parents Kim and Corey Miller.”
Mom Kim says that Molly’s upward trajectory in the sport came as something of a surprise.
“Two years ago, when she was 12, she was having a good year, winning everything locally,” Kim said. “She came to me and said, ‘I want to go to Nationals’. They were in Newfoundland that year and that’s where we’re from, but I said ‘no’. I thought she was too young. But she kept saying, ‘please, please, please’. I decided, we’re just going to do it. No one goes to Nationals two years young, but she won.”
Molly took home two bronze and a gold at her first Nationals, competing against skiers two years older. She also won the prestigious Sophie Mannering Award for top overall skier.
“I thought she’d be lucky to make top ten,” Kim said with a laugh. The next year at Nationals, still a year younger than the field, Molly won two gold and two silver, winning the overall award again.
“This year she goes to Whitehorse for Nationals and she’s really motivated to win that award again,” Kim said.
Molly also made the podium at the Canada Games last year as part of the BC relay team.
It was after the first Nationals, that Kim said she began to hear whispers in the crowd when Molly was skiing.
“I heard murmurs that ‘she’s a freak of nature’, a ‘prodigy’. I don’t know about that, but I did realize then that she obviously had natural talent. It was crazy.”
Having raced up against much older skiers, and seen a great deal of success nationally and now internationally, you might think Molly would bypass the B.C. Winter Games, but she is going to Penticton February 25 to 28.
“She really wanted to go to the BC Games,” Kim said. “It’s the whole social aspect, that’s her peer group. She’s always racing up and the BC Games is a chance to be with kids her own age. She needs to keep having fun skiing and be with friends.”
Molly will finish up in Europe with races in Switzerland this week before heading home and preparing for Penticton. The races in Switzerland will be against older competition again, but Kim knows she will do her best.
“I am really proud of her. She works so hard. She works at Montana’s and every cent goes to skiing, not clothes or anything else, just skiing.”
And on the horizon lurks the ultimate dream, the Olympics.
“She’s got that dream,” Kim said. “Most cross country skiers don’t get to the Olympics until their mid-20’s but she’s looking at 2022.”