Auburn Olympic Star Sprinting Back To Form

Auburn, Ala.--When the Auburn track and field teams are hosts for their second home meet of the 2002 outdoor season this weekend at the Wilbur Hutsell Track Complex there will be more eyes than normal on the results as former All-American and Olympian <b>Coby Miller</b> will run his first outdoor race since suffering a broken leg during the 2001 season.

The Auburn Bank Invitational gets started Thursday afternoon and runs through Saturday with teams from the University of Florida, UAB, Columbia, Gardner-Webb, UNC-Charlotte, South Alabama, West Georgia and Wallace State College from Hanceville all scheduled to compete in the event. In addition to the teams, several individuals received invitations to compete in the event of their choice and that's where Miller enters the picture.

Miller works on his form during a sunny Wednesday workout on the Plains.

Almost fully recovered, Miller, alongside the watchful eye of former college coach and current individual coach Ralph Spry, will run his first outdoor race since the injury and it will be on his home track. Expected to run just the 100 meters on Saturday afternoon at 3:40, Miller will have Spry watching very closely to see how his prize pupil handles the excitement of getting back on the track after suffering through months of watching and waiting.

"Coby had a lot of success at the collegiate level and made the Olympic team," Spry says. "He was really on the fast track to becoming the premier sprinter in the country and then he had an unfortunate situation at the indoor USA Track and Field Championships. He won the race and ran a 20.31 (200 meters), which was the third fastest time ever run by an American.

"Unfortunately, when he crossed the line Sean Crawford stumbled and rolled over which broke Coby's fibula. That was really a major setback because he was really peaking at the right time. I think he was ready to snatch the American record...it's been a real tough road for Coby. It took about eight months before he could actually get back out and start training. We just decided not to rush it. He's a young guy. We took our time with the rehab. He finally got back to racing this year indoors. It went pretty good considering the type of injury that he had.

Coach Spry prepares the track for a practice on Wednesday.

Sitting out in the prime of your career would have been a burden to some, but Miller seems to be at peace with the injury and the timing of it. Raised with a strong Christian influence, the sturdy Miller says that the injury must have occurred for a reason and he's not about to question why, just move forward.

"For me it was about keeping my priorities in line," he notes. "I don't think it's been that tough because it made me a stronger person. I just kept my priorities in line and just stayed focused on coming back stronger. Now my training is better than it's ever been so it really helped me along.

"I realized God must have had a better plan for me. That's what I took to my heart and that really helped me pull through the whole thing."

Pulling through is just what Miller has done. Training like a man possessed, he says that he's looking forward to this weekend so he can show the world that he's back and ready to take that step to the top of the heap in the race for America's fastest man.

"I'm looking forward to the 100 meters this weekend," he says with a grin. "This is my home track, this is what I've been training on. It's kind of going to be impossible for someone to beat me on my home track. I give all my competitors respect, but I'm a competitor myself and it's going to be difficult. I plan to come out here and run fast. It's also going to be in front of the home crowd so I'll be here with my game face on."

That could spell trouble for the rest of the field. Not up to par yet physically, Miller says that he hopes to run in the 10.0 to 10.1 range in the race. Those are world class times. While Miller has his sights set high Spry just wants Miller to get his feet wet once again and set the stage for some big races later in the year.

"His training is going extremely well," says Spry. "I think he's capable of running a fast opener. I would like to see him run under a 10.20. That would be a good start for him. From this point on he's going to jump into the world class level and continue to run some United States meets as he gets ready for the European Tour. This weekend is to kind of test the waters and see where we are. I know we're ready to run, but I just want to break the ice."

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