“I didn’t even have time to get my bags yet. We pretty much got right off of the plane in New Mexico and they told me and my coach the track meet was canceled,” University of Memphis weight thrower DeeNia McMiller said as she thought back to the cancellation of the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was disappointing, obviously, getting all the way to that point and being told it was canceled. I was hurt, but afterwards I just knew, ‘OK I have one more year, I need to make the best out of it.’”
McMiller’s positive outlook on what many others may see as a catastrophe pushed her to work harder to ensure she would land a spot in the 2022 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
“Usually you know we have about six meets to qualify for the NCAAs. I only had two this time,” she said. “This was my last year, my last ride, and I had to take it all the way.”
Determined to go as far as possible in the competition, McMiller had to not only train for her physical performance – but her mental performance as well. Struggling in the previous meet with nervousness, she knew she had to strengthen her mental confidence for Nationals.
“I knew what I was capable of and I didn’t want a repeat of the year before. When I had finally gotten to Nationals, my confidence level was at a 10.”
Her confidence and hard work had shone through. With her best throw of 23.3 meters, McMiller placed fifth in the nation, as well as earning First Team All-American honors at the NCAA Indoor Championships. She humbly compared the championships two years prior to the 2022 Championships, saying this year had a little more meaning than the past, but not just because it was her senior year.
This year, the spotlight on women’s weight throw was prevalent, McMiller said. She explained that the women who qualified for indoor championships were putting up numbers that have not been seen in a very long time.
Shey Taiwo of Ole Miss threw a top throw of 25.55 meters, followed by her teammate Jasmine Mitchell throwing 24.94 meters. McMiller expressed how proud she was to be part of an event that showcased the talents of so many women.
“I felt this year I had a little chip on my shoulder, but the atmosphere of the meet made me feel so much more confident in my abilities.”
McMiller reflected on her adolescence and how she would watch the NCAA Championships on television and dream of earning a NCAA trophy of her own.
“I dreamed of getting one of these trophies since I was in middle school. I used to watch these track and field championships on TV when I was 12 or 13. Now over 11 years later, I made a dream come true,” McMiller said in an Instagram post.
Her vision for her future has now come full circle, and her 12-year-old self has every reason to be proud of the athlete she has become today.
McMiller plans to take a break from track now that she has graduated from the University of Memphis.
“This is all I have been doing since seventh grade. I just want to take a little breather and just try to be a regular person for a little bit.”
With a degree in healthcare administration, she has plans to move to Atlanta, Georgia, and secure a job in her field.
Although her time as a student-athlete has come to an end, she has no doubt that she will pick back up with training in the future. “I know that there is still more there. I would love to see where I can take what I have already been working on.”
After a disappointing 2020-2021 indoor season, DeeNia McMiller returned to indoor nationals more focused and physically ready.
DeeNia McMiller would find herself in fifth place at the end of competition, finishing as a first team All-American in one of the most competitive weight throws ever.