'TC David Miller has set some pretty high standards for his college swimming career.
Although just a sophomore at UMBC, Miller already has plenty to live up to. At last year's Eastern Intercollegiate Championships, he won two events, broke five school records and earned Most Outstanding Male Swimmer honors.
With this year's Eastern Championships less than a month away, Miller is determined to be the top man again.
"I would kind of feel like I took a step backward if I didn't get it this year," said the Centennial High graduate.
"I would hate to get it as a freshman and not as a sophomore, but the guy who won it before me was a freshman. You never know who's coming in, what kind of recruits are waiting to win it from you."
Miller has not taken a step backward in a long time. Since making a commitment to swimming five years ago, he has moved only forward -- and not just in the pool.
"Talk about a person who made a complete turnaround," said UMBC coach Sid Burkot, who also coached Miller for six years at the Retriever Athletic Club. "His training ethics in practice, his sensitivity as a human being, his concentration in the classroom -- over the eight years he's spent here, he has turned that all around."
The change began with the discipline and dedication needed to excel in the pool, but it eventually spread to other areas of Miller's life.
"I was never the type to really cause problems. I was just kind of unfocused," said Miller, 19. "I didn't really feel intense about anything, but swimming exposed me to the principle of getting out of something what you put into it. That eventually carried over to academics."
After doing just enough to get by academically in high school, Miller now majors in economics, carries a 3.84 grade-point average and plans to be a lawyer.
The turnaround began, he said, on a trip to the Eastern Zone Championships when he was 14.
"The chance to represent Maryland opened my eyes to bigger and better things," Miller said. "I made a commitment after that to train like crazy. It turns out I was rewarded, because at 15, I made it to Junior Nationals."
For four straight years, Miller qualified for the U.S. Swimming Junior National Championships. Last year, he moved on to the USS Senior Nationals and swam at the U.S. Open and the Olympic Festival.
At UMBC, Miller has only his own records left to break.
After last year's performance at the Eastern Championships, Miller held school records in the four freestyle events from 200 to 1,650 yards as well as the 400 individual medley.
In mid-December, Miller broke the longest-standing UMBC record. The 5-year-old 200 IM mark disappeared with his finish of 1 minute, 54.28 seconds at a quad meet at West Virginia University. Now, he has led the Retrievers to their second straight 10-win season, a school record for the men's team.
Not bad for a swimmer without great natural ability.
"You have talented athletes and you have athletes who work hard to become successful," Burkot said. "David had to work hard to be a successful swimmer. He's probably gone beyond anybody's expectations,and in the next two years, he could do some big things in the NCAA championships."
Miller's top goal is to qualify for the NCAA championships and to perform well in them. He's realistic about his own capabilities.
Miller knows he never will be Olympic-caliber, but that does not bother him. He has other plans, beginning with law school.
"I'm getting to the point now where I'm ready to enter the real world," Miller said. "I'll complete my NCAA eligibility to the highest of my ability then I'm going to move on."