Brebeuf Jesuit sophomore Paris Miller is breaking records left and right. On November 5, 2020, she set the new U.S. record in the 1000m erg for the 15-16 age group. If that weren’t impressive enough, she proceeded to break the world record in the 500m erg just two weeks later. The kicker? She only started rowing last year! The Fishers transfer decided to try her hand at the sport following some motherly encouragement.
“I was at the gym with my mom,” Paris recounted. “We were erging, and she said, ‘You should try this. I think you would be good.’ I joined a week later, and after two weeks, I knew I never wanted to go back [to basketball].”
Paris had trained with the Fishers basketball team in the months leading up to high school, but she decided to pursue rowing instead once the school year started. With much of her time spent at her family lake house in Culver or sailing at Eagle Creek, however, the athlete was no stranger to aquatic environments prior to her rowing career.
“I just love being around the water,” she said.
Since transferring after her freshman year, Paris has been making significant waves with Brebeuf’s rowing team. Her response to breaking her first record?
“It feels pretty good,” she stated humbly. “If it weren’t for rowing, I wouldn’t have been able to come [to Brebeuf]. Everything lined up perfectly, so I think breaking the American record–I feel like that’s what I’m supposed to do.”
When she’s not on the water, you can likely find Paris playing basketball with her younger brother, Ryan, with whom she shares somewhat of a competitive streak. Just one year apart, the siblings both started playing basketball around the same time, and he followed in his sister’s footsteps when she switched over to rowing. The sophomore said the sport changed her life and helped her discover her inner strength.
“Rowing is about pushing yourself and seeing how much better you can get personally for your team,” Paris shared. “That’s what sets it apart from other sports. You don’t have breaks. You don’t have timeouts. When you start the race, you have to finish, and you have to find the strength in yourself to push past your limits. When you’re [nearing] the end of the race, your legs are burning, and you just want to fall off and lay there, but you can’t stop. By the end of the race, your legs are numb, and you don’t feel anything anymore, so it’s just [about] finding the strength to keep going. Embracing the pain.”
And embrace the pain, she did. Just two weeks after breaking the American record, Paris went for the world record in the 500m erg, in spite of a back injury. Although her mind raced with thoughts of what could go wrong, the athlete found comfort in knowing she had broken the record unofficially during practice the week prior.
“Going into the live race, I knew the world record and what I had to beat,” Paris said. “I had to beat myself, which I really love because I learned that when you think you went your hardest, you can always go harder.”
She prepared for the race with a two-hour nap, a cup of coffee, and a pep talk from her coach, Becca Kimball, whom Paris says is the one person who can shut down the doubt.
“She’s definitely a role model,” the sophomore shared. “Whenever I want to take on these new challenges–start this, start that, she always says, ‘Go for it. If you can handle it, do it.’”
Paris knew she was ready for this challenge. She had trained for it mentally and physically, and she was prepared to win. As she settled into the erg, she imagined the possibility of breaking the world record and what it could do for her life. Then, the timer started.
“All I remember is hearing lots of yelling and taking my thoughts back to my ‘why’ in an attempt to block out the pain,” Paris recounted.
Thinking back to a time she heard someone say they hate to lose more than they like to win, the student athlete reflected on her own mindset and her drive to put in the work. When she wins, Paris says she knows she earned it. When she loses, it’s a sign for her to keep pushing so she can win the next time. Her hard work, her dedication, and her “why” fueled the rower towards her status as not just an American record holder, but also as a world record holder.
“If you put your heart into your sport, it never feels like work,” she shared. “Train hard, and most importantly, have faith that you can do what has never been done before.”
When the race was over and the new record was set, she was greeted at the finish line with nothing but support from her teammates, coach, and family.
“My close family always knew I could [do it],” Paris said. “They were there during quarantine, and they saw me train, so they knew how bad I wanted it.”
In addition to her blood relatives, Paris said the Brebeuf rowing team feels like family. Her eyes lit up when she spoke about the love, encouragement, and kindness present among her teammates, citing this tight-knit community as what makes rowing so special.
“My teammates have been a crucial part in what I’ve been able to accomplish,” Paris shared. “They show up for me every single time. They push me and make me want to be a better athlete.”
Paris explained that in addition to giving her a sense of belonging, rowing has taught her a lot about gratitude and finding happiness in unexpected places.
“I’ve learned to find the beauty in things that you might not normally see it in, or the simpler things in life,” she reflected. “I can just go down to the water and sit there for hours and just find it beautiful. And I think rowing is just such a beautiful sport in that aspect because you can go in the water and just be at peace.”
Perhaps seeking joy in simplicity is a lesson we can all strive to learn in our own lives. Congratulations on your amazing accomplishments, Paris! We’re so excited to see where your talents take you.