By Kyle Merber
August 31, 2022
It was a promising career from the start for Aaliyah Miller as she ran 2:02 in high school growing up in Dallas. The logical next step was to then become a Baylor Bear, which she did — earning more All-American honors and school records than we can count. But her greatest accomplishment during her time in Waco was winning the 2021 NCAA Indoor 800m title in a meet record of 2:00.69. On Sunday Aaliyah enjoyed her birthday and on Monday announced that she inked a professional deal with On Running and would be moving to Boulder to train with Team Boss. I caught up with her to ask more about the decision:
It’s been a while! What have you been up to since we last saw you competing at USAs?
It’s been different to have a bunch of chill time. Ever since I got back home to Dallas, I’ve been trying to figure out what comes next, because I knew I wasn’t going to continue racing. I didn’t want to force it and wanted to let my mind rest and figure out what the next steps were.
Was that decision to not continue racing just a matter of being tired after a long year?
I always had it in the back of my head that I would potentially do summer racing, but it just didn’t feel like it was the right setup for me. I didn’t want to try to keep forcing races or running for a time — that’s never been the kind of person that I am. So I just cut it off to reset.
Since you kind of had the ability to fully commit yourself to the recruiting and exploratory part of turning pro, what did that process look like?
After my fifth year at Baylor, I was set on leaving and did not think I was coming back. So last summer I got to learn a little bit more about the process because I knew nothing about it until I won my national title. I spoke with a couple of agents, some potential groups, and coaches. Then once NCAAs were over the conversations turned more serious to see where I saw myself best.
What is it about Team Boss group that stood out to you that made it seem like the best fit?
I was honestly super shocked. I remember talking to someone at On the day after the 800 at USAs and he was interested in talking to me. I was like, ‘oh my gosh!’ He thought it would be a good fit for me. And I had never actually seen myself joining such a bad group! Like, they’re so awesome and they cover so much range.
And as I thought about my professional career I definitely wanted to join a really big and powerful group. When I trained at Baylor it was always by myself so this is a big opportunity for me to learn from them, to grow, and really push my limits. And then with On Running as a brand, it just felt like a win-win scenario for me. It was kind of crazy how it happened because I never had that option on the table until I guess USAs came along.
This is a different situation than Baylor where the team is known for such a powerful sprint squad. Now you’re going into a group that has some of the best distance runners, let alone marathoners in the country. Was that shift something you valued?
It feels like it’s something that I’ve been missing. In my training, there has been a lot of self-reflection and pushing myself individually. But I’ve never had a group before and that’s why I wanted to join a strong one. I feel like it’s going to be a good push for me, and I think the biggest thing will be getting used to the altitude because I’ve been at sea level my whole life. So that will definitely be an adjustment. But you have to take these risks to get the results that you want. I’m excited to see how my body and my new life will transition over there in Boulder.
You had an exceptionally good high school career. Was running professionally always the lifelong dream?
I was talking to my dad about it the other day. You would think that it wasn’t, because I kept delaying it for so long. Nobody ever said I could go to college for six years. I feel like I’m kind of late to the game. I wanted to take full advantage of what Baylor was giving me and you can never get those college years back. I love Waco, but it is definitely time to leave to surround myself with these powerful women. It’s funny how excited my college teammates are that these will be my friends.
Is there any specific aspect of your game that will be key to focus on to succeed at the next level?
It’ll be different not having to juggle a bunch of things and solely focus on training. This last year I probably put too much on my plate and I didn’t get the results that I really wanted.
This summer you made what sounds like the right decision for you to stay home and rest and recover. But looking at the results of the 800 women across the country, how does it feel knowing how fast you have to run to make teams?
It’s inspiring because everybody started from the same place where I’m at: trying to break two. But once people do it, they don’t know how to not do it. So I’m just looking forward to that for me! I just have to keep putting myself in the mix and I don’t want to say be more aggressive — I’ve been pretty aggressive — but racing smarter and being stronger. That last 200 is getting really quick, so I’ve just got to figure it out for myself and be up there.
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After hanging up his spikes – but never his running shoes – Kyle pivoted to the media side of things, where he shares his enthusiasm, insights, and experiences with subscribers of The Lap Count newsletter, as well as viewers of CITIUS MAG live shows.