A new emphasis on mental toughness. Maybe that's what lifted Erik Miller to the St. Charles North program record in high jump.
Saturday at Waubonsie Valley's Red Ribbon Classic the North Stars senior breezed through attempts at 6 feet, 2 inches, and at 6-4 and 6-6. He cleared all on his first attempt.
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At 6-8, though, he grazed the bar. It bounced, it held and, on a windy day, it finally fell.
The high jump judges deemed it a miss. St. Charles North high jump coach Shari Hayes pleaded for a re-jump. The re-jump was granted. Miller missed on that.
That's where Miller's mental toughness came in. He regrouped and cleared his following attempt at 6-8 to equal the North Stars' record he'd reached in his fourth-place Class 3A finish last spring in Charleston, a program mark he shared with 2012 graduate Oshay Hodges.
Miller then soared over 6-10 on his first attempt to set a new personal best, and capture the record himself. He was unable to clear three attempts at 7 feet, though both he and St. Charles North head coach Kevin Harrington believe it's in Miller's future.
"He had it," Harrington said. "He's got 7-foot -- he's got 7-2 height right now."
Conquering those two misses at 6-8 might define Miller's approach this spring.
"I think last year early in the year it definitely would have (thrown him off), but I've really prepared for just ... mental toughness, mental focus," he said. "That's really all high jump is. I know I have the talent and ability, but really this whole season it's just been mental toughness."
Unless something else happened across the state Saturday that had yet to be reported to the Dyestat website, Miller's 6-10 effort tied him with defending 3A titlist Jonathan Wells of Grant for Illinois' best high jump, 18th in the nation.
"It feels good, but now I'm just motivated to get 7 because I know I had it," said the Illinois State recruit. "It definitely feels good. Oshay (Hodges) taught me a lot -- he was the previous holder. He taught me a lot, but it feels good to finally have it to myself. Hopefully I can break it again."
St. Charles North finished seventh in this high-caliber meet, with Class 3A trophy hopefuls Minooka and Belleville West finishing 1-2 in the team results.
Along with Miller, North Star senior Drew Egger won the pole vault at 13 feet, 9 inches. His classmate, J.T. Grill, took second at 13-3. And then they went to prom, a bane to several teams Saturday in Aurora.
St. Charles North also got a third place in the 400 dash by Jack Feeney and saw Tom Lindholm reach the finals of both the discus and shot put competitions.
Before the prom losses took affect, the North Stars' 3,200-meter relay team of Feeney, Chris Suda, Nathan Klair and Danny Obernesser finished fourth at 8 minutes, 24.30 seconds.