One of the best skiers in central Maine wasn’t even in Maine at the start of the school year.
Mike Miller transferred to Skowhegan in December. Fortunately for first-year Skowhegan alpine coach Bill Finley, the Indians hadn’t begun their regular season yet.
“We did not officially start practice until Dec. 2, and he came a week and a half later,” Finley said. “That was the big thing, whether the MPA was going to let him compete or not, but because we hadn’t had any meets or events, he was allowed to compete.”
After joining the team, Miller was consistently in the top five in races throughout the winter. As a sophomore, he won the giant slalom at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships, and in the Class A state races, he placed fourth in the slalom and seventh in the giant slalom.
That makes Miller the choice for the Morning Sentinel Boys Alpine Skier of the Year. Also considered was Mt. Abram’s Jed Stevens.
Miller, who grew up in Athens, attended Carrabassett Valley Academy last year, and said skiing has been a part of most of his life.
“I’ve been skiing ever since I was 2,” he said. “I grew up at Loon Mountain. It’s just like the one place where you can go off in your own world, and set your own personal goals, and just relax. Yeah, you win, you lose sometimes. But in the end it’s all about whether you had fun or not.”
Finley had heard a little about Miller’s background before he transferred, but never actually saw Miller ski until the team took a bus ride to Titcomb Mountain for a practice.
“I watched him ski, and he came down through,” Finley said. “It was like I had been sent an angel. I said, â€˜This is going to be really exciting.’
“He had great technique. His form was great. But in addition to that was the way the other team members were really drawn to him. He built relationships the first day. Everyone liked him immediately, and not just for his skiing.”
Miller said he was a little worried at first about being the new guy on the team, but those worries went away quickly.
“I went into this group, and there were all these super-nice kids,” Miller said. “They were a blast to ski with.”
Before the KVAC giant slalom race, Finley sensed something was different with Miller. He got the same feeling during the race.
“His mental attitude was great,” Finley said. “He went out with the attitude he was going to win the race. You could just tell he was going to ski well. You could see his upper body was down the hill the whole time. His eyes were focused. You just new he was going to win the race when you saw him.”
Miller’s plan is to work hard in the offseason, and let the coaches fine-tune his approach.
“I’ll probably finish out my high school career in Skowhegan,” Miller said. “With this group of kids, it’s just so much fun. There’s always room for improvement. Always pushing toward that top goal.”