Reaching for a dream

Provided photo

Goldie Miller, a seventh-grader in the Troy Christian schools system, tries out for the U.S. Olympic luge team this winter at the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center.

By Josh Brown

Troy Daily News

TROY — When describing what made Goldie Miller such a natural during her luge tryouts, the U.S. Olympic team’s coaches talked about her fearlessness.

When asked if she felt fearless while streaking down a slide of ice on a tiny sled, Miller — a seventh grader in the Troy Christian school system — had a pretty definitive response.

“No,” Miller said with a vigorous head shake for emphasis.

Whether or not she feels fear on the luge course, though, Miller displayed an innate ability for the sport — so much so that she earned herself a spot on the U.S. Olympic program’s development, or ‘D,’ team, putting the 13-year-old on track to one day possibly compete in the Olympics.

It’s been a whirlwind year for Miller, who first took interest in the luge while watching broadcasts of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“I thought it looked pretty cool,” Miller said. “I just said I liked it, and mom found something online, a tryout.”

“They were interviewing the Olympians, and they said that they liked to recruit swimmers. And Goldie is a swimmer,” said Brandie Herres, Miller’s mother. “She said ‘hey, I’m a swimmer. I can do that.’”

And she quickly got her chance — Herres signed her up for an “Introduction to Luge” event on Mother’s Day weekend.

“There was a tryout in Columbus that mom found first, and it sounded cool,” Miller said. “It was on pavement and with sleds with wheels, and you just weave through cones. And after that, I kind of got promoted to go on ice.”

More than 700 people tried out during that round of tryouts, with Miller making the cut down to 80. The next tryout took place in December 2018 at the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center and trimmed the field of prospects to 28 — with Miller again making it. And in one last round of tryouts in early 2018, Miller again impressed, qualifying as one of the final two athletes selected to become part of the program’s “D” team.

“The roster comes out on May 1, and they’ll both be on the team, Goldie and Emma,” Herres said. “Emma’s from Pennsylvania, but she came to the Columbus tryout, too. These kids came from all over. When we go to the training camps with the team now, there’s some from Minnesota, some from Pennsylvania, just all over.”

“I felt special,” Miller said. “I was very surprised. It was kind of unexpected, because I felt like there were people better than me, but I made it.”

Miller even got to hang out with the Olympic team, including getting a picture with Chris Mazdzer, a silver medalist at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

“That was really cool. That was probably one of my favorite parts of doing this,” Miller said.

But what made Miller such a natural at the luge in such a short time?

“When we were leaving Lake Placid, his feedback was that she doesn’t show any fear, and that she slides very well with her sled,” Herres said. “They like them to feel naturally organic with the sled and not tense up, and he said she seemed very relaxed.”

“I haven’t crashed yet,” Miller said.

“Well don’t say that,” Herres said with a laugh.

“Well, I haven’t,” Miller said. “Everybody else has, and I’m really surprised. I almost did, and my coach even said he was surprised that I didn’t. He said it was because I was relaxed that I didn’t.”

Miller still has plenty of work ahead of her before getting a shot at competing in the Olympics.

“Now that she’s on the ‘D’ team, so the next step is usually by the time they’re 15, they advance up to the ‘C’ team,” Herres said. “The ‘D’ team competes in the Empire State Winter Olympic Games, and that was in January, and they can also compete in national events. But once she goes up to the ‘C’ team, they travel and compete internationally — Europe, Canada. So once she’s on the ‘C’ team by the time she’s in high school, she’ll be traveling quite a bit. Then after the ‘C’ team is the National team, and they’re competing for a spot in the Olympics. So 2026 is her first opportunity.”

“I feel pretty good (about the chances of making the Olympic team),” Miller said. “Not a lot of people do this sport.”

Not many get the chance — there are only 13 luge courses in the entire world.

But with all the traveling — trips to Lake Placid already not withstanding — Miller will still be able to keep up with her school work.

“The school has been great, working with her and helping her stay caught up,” Herres said.

“It’s not too bad,” Miller said. “I’m able to catch up. If we learn new material, I’m able to catch on pretty quickly. I’m pretty confident. I don’t think it’ll be too much of a struggle for me.”

One way or another, earning a spot on the ‘D’ team has had an effect on Miller at home, too.

“We’ve seen a difference in her confidence-wise since she went up there,” Jamie Miller, Goldie’s father, said. “Her confidence in herself with her swimming meets, getting stronger mentally, there’s a noticeable difference.”

Goldie Miller will also be able to continue to swim for the Englewood YMCA team, according to Herres. In fact, the team told them it planned to continue helping accommodate her needs so she could continue to compete. Between Troy Christian schools, the Englewood YMCA, and especially her own family — stepfather Mark Herres plans to build a small track at their home so she can practice her starts year-round — Miller seems to have the support necessary to make her Olympic dreams come true.

“(‘D’ team coach) Aidan (Kelly, a 2014 Olympian) said that he’s lost some of his best boys with the most potential because they just couldn’t keep up with the strain of it,” Brandie Herres said. “So she is fortunate she’s got a huge support system.”

And all of that support helps Goldie Miller feel fearless.

Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at jbrown@aimmediamidwest.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.