Running track at the Division I level was never the plan for Jonathan Miller. In fact, Miller didn’t even begin participating in the sport until four years ago.
Miller was born and grew up in Bridgetown, Barbados. There, he spent most of his time practicing skills completely unrelated to athletics.
“I did a lot of music,” Miller said. “I was in an all-boys choir so music was more of my hobby. I played a couple instruments; I played the guitar, piano, drums, I sang at church.”
Miller did not participate in sports until high school. Even then, the Nebraska triple-jumper needed a little push just to get started.
“One day, my high school coach kind of forced me into doing track,” Miller said. “After that, I started to take track more seriously and develop my talent.”
Once he did start, Miller struggled to succeed, which in turn hurt his confidence. However, with the help of good coaching, Miller stuck with it and improved.
“When I first started it was terrible,” he said. “I wasn’t the best athlete, I couldn’t jump far, I knew nothing about technique. I had no confidence at all, I couldn’t win any competitions or anything like that. My coach never stopped helping me, he always tried to pull me up, he taught me to build up confidence.”
After getting over the initial hump, Miller soared. It even got to the point where Miller had to train alone in order to push himself, as the others around him didn’t provide enough of a challenge.
“I always competed alone because I was one of the best triple jumpers there, so there wasn’t really competition for me,” Miller said. “I always pushed myself at a young age.”
Miller’s hard work paid off, as he picked up his fair share of accolades in Barbados. In 2018, he participated in the CARIFTA Games, an annual competition started by the Caribbean Free Trade Association. Not only did Miller impress, he took home gold in the Under-20 division in the triple jump, setting a personal best of 51 feet and 3 inches, or 15.62 meters.
Miller then began to attract real attention from U.S. colleges for the first time. Nebraska assistant coach Matt Martin took notice, which eventually led to Miller choosing to come to Nebraska.
“That was my first year of training and I had no scholarships at that time,” Miller said. “When I won, a lot of schools opened up to me. Matt Martin saw me at CARIFTA Games and he got in touch with me. Then eventually, I got to a visit here. I loved it here — the atmosphere, the people that train here and Coach Pepin.”
Despite Miller’s quick success, he has faced adversity along the way. One issue that has plagued Miller for the past few years is something almost all athletes have had to deal with: injuries.
In Miller’s second year of track, he tore his hamstring, which left him unable to “do anything.” When he first got to Nebraska, Miller dealt with an ankle injury that kept him out of training for months.
“Even right now, I’m feeling a little pain,” Miller said. “It’s an ongoing thing, plus the triple jump isn’t the safest or easiest event on the body. It really hurts.”
The transition has been tough for Miller, especially with the difference in weather between Barbados and Nebraska. However, he has been able to get through every challenge with the help of those around him.
“My mom, my parents, they were always supportive of me and I have a lot of supportive friends, so they helped me a lot,” Miller said.
Even as a freshman, Miller is unwilling to sit on the sidelines and not make an impact.
“I want to be a strong competitor in the Big Ten, always,” Miller said. “I want to contribute to my team, I don’t want to just take up space and not help my team in any way. When I’m here I want to be an asset to the team more than anything else.”
Like many athletes, Miller aims to go pro after college. However, if that doesn’t pan out, Miller still won’t completely walk away from the sport.
“I want my life to be surrounded around sports,” Miller said. “If I don’t go pro after college, I want to be a volunteer coach here or coach collegiately. I really love the idea of coaching, I think I would enjoy it.”