By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Meredith Mill has mastered the art of law and order in her life.
Law in the sense that the political science and criminal justice major has a strong determination and laser focus to achieve a career as a lawyer.
Order from the standpoint that she makes the most of every minute in order to succeed as a Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll student and as the top runner on South Carolina’s cross country team.
“Meredith is an example of a particular kind of successful student-athlete that I’ve seen a number of times in my career,” South Carolina’s first-year distance coach Andrew Allden said. “She is very good at compartmentalizing and that works very well for higher-end athletes. When she’s in class and studying, she’s very focused on that. When she’s in practice, practice has her full attention for that period of time. She doesn’t seem to carry anything around with her.”
Rewind to the fall of 2010 when Mill first arrived on the South Carolina campus.
A two-time member of a Maryland State Cross Country Championship team at Howard High School in Ellicott City, Md., Mill had decided to focus on her academics and not compete in track and field at the collegiate level.
“I had talked to [former South Carolina distance] Coach [Stan] Rosenthal my senior year of high school, but decided not to join the team,” Mill said. “Running is important, but ultimately I’m here for my education. It took me only four months to realize that I missed running and I contacted Coach Rosenthal and asked to walk on to the team.”
Mill had missed the deadline to join the track and field team her freshman year, but would begin competing for the Gamecocks’ cross country team that fall. Having a year to just concentrate on academics, coupled with Mill’s intensive course load in high school, will allow her to graduate this December – just three-and-a-half years after enrolling.
“In high school, I took a lot of Advanced Placement classes, so I was able to come in a full semester early,” Mill said. “I’ve been able to take a bit lighter load because of that, which has helped me with balancing everything. I knew that if I wanted to go to law school, I had to keep up my GPA. I spent a lot of time that year in the library, focusing on my studies and building relationships with professors. When we travel now, I bring all of my books and spend a lot of time studying.”
Mill discovered from an early age her penchant for writing and has always been a prolific reader.
That combination is one that Mill felt would be a perfect match for the legal profession. After taking several undergraduate law-based courses at South Carolina, she knew her instinct was correct.
“The law classes that I have taken have been my favorite classes so far,” Mill said. “I took a constitutional law case where we had to brief a lot of cases and that was really interesting to me from an historical perspective. I also took criminal law class where the professor was quite the personality and would tell us about the people she represented and her past cases. The class was pretty entertaining and it was interesting to see how people actually use the law.”
Mill’s leadership skills earned have earned her the distinction of team captain each of the last two years and it is those same attributes that Allden believes will serve his pupil well in her intended career.
“Beyond her sheer intellectual gifts she is a person who, when you talk to her, is very good at making her point and laying out her case,” Allden said. “She doesn’t waste a lot of verbiage. When she makes a particular point to our team, it is very distinct and it is clear that she has given it a lot of thought. That will serve her well in the law and courtroom.”
As if Mill’s schedule isn’t already packed, she also spends her time helping teach an undergraduate course called University 101, where she enjoys the opportunity to give back to fellow students.
“We have a class for incoming freshmen, teaching them about the university and its resources, and it’s my second year doing that,” she said. “It is fun to mentor freshmen, remember where you started from and how much this school has to offer. Sometimes when you get in a groove as an upperclassman, you can forget about all the great resources. It allows me to fulfill another mentorship and helps me be a leader on the team.”
After two admirable seasons in cross country and track, Mill has taken her athletic performance to another level this season. Spending most of her collegiate career battling through injuries, Mill was able to spend this past offseason training at full speed, which has paid dividends so far this year.
“I haven’t gone a season yet without injury,” Mill said. “I was healthy training over the summer, just building a base and I definitely think that’s why I have made such a leap this semester. I’ve been doing more workouts and training on soft surfaces, which has helped with preventing injuries.”
The addition of Allden, a veteran coach who has spent several past stints with South Carolina head coach Curtis Frye, to the staff as Mill’s coach has also aided her training and results.
“He has a different workout schedule which has incorporated more weight training, and I think that has definitely helped my fitness level, in addition to just having a different coaching perspective,” Mill said.
Mill ranks among the top-10 runners in the SEC with a personal-best 6K time of 21:39.34. Mill’s top performance this season came as a top-10 finish at the highly competitive Mountain Dew Invitational, which saw her shatter her personal-best 6K time by more than 45 seconds. She also was South Carolina’s top runner at the Roy Griak Invitational in Minnesota.
“Meredith has responded very well to the training methods and they have been working for her,” Allden said. “She is on track to have what I would describe as a career year. She has been performing at a higher level than any point of her career. She has shown she is someone who can work hard. Historically, she has had some ups and downs in terms of her career, but she has shown it is possible to work her way through the bumps and still arrive at being an athlete at a high level.”
Mill has brought a steady presence and calming influence to her running that has served both her results and her teammates well.
“In a lot of ways, running is very much a matter of parceling out your energy very effectively,” Allden said. “Most people who are trying to run an optimum time are typically going out too fast. If anything, Meredith errs on the side of going out a teeny bit too slow. She typically makes up for it in the second half of her race, running very, very fast. I feel like she’s on a pretty steep improvement course, and we are going to challenge her to use that fitness against the top end of the SEC.”
With the new training philosophy and the strong core of talented young athletes now at South Carolina, Mill feels she is at the ground floor of Allden’s rebuilding project on the school’s distance program. The opportunity to help build a strong base is a role that Mill relishes.
“We’re definitely building up right now,” she said. “I don’t know what all we are going to accomplish this year, but I almost wish I could stay and see what happens in the next five years. The past couple of years, this program has gotten a lot more serious and the girls have gotten a lot more focused. We definitely have the potential to be one of the top teams in the SEC.”
If anything, Mill’s running demeanor is symbolic of how she approaches every aspect of her life. It’s an attitude that Allden sees on display each and every day.
“It is just kind of a steadiness and a get down to business attitude,” Allden said. “There’s not a lot of extraneous stuff going on.”
As for Mill, who is focused on a strong finish to her running career, she is also busy applying to law schools to begin her next phase. She has no reservations as she looks to the future, characteristically summing it up concisely and accurately.
“I like a challenge,” Mill said.