Following in her footsteps

Local runner’s sister aims to start group for students with special needs

By: Sarah Wojcik | C&G Newspapers | Published December 23, 2015

 Sarah Miller, 20, of Fraser, warms up for the Jingle Bell 5K at the Shelby Community Center Dec. 13. Miller hopes to begin a walking and running group for other students with special needs.

Sarah Miller, 20, of Fraser, warms up for the Jingle Bell 5K at the Shelby Community Center Dec. 13. Miller hopes to begin a walking and running group for other students with special needs.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP/FRASER — Until the last month, 20-year-old Macomb Academy student Sarah Miller, of Fraser, has helped the local running community from the sidelines, cheering on her older sister and helping serve refreshments.

Recently, she decided that she not only wants to participate, but also start a running group for other students with special needs at her school.

Miller has since trained with her older sister, Danielle Miller, a member of the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project, and completed three local events.

Danielle Miller qualified for the 2016 U.S. Marathon Olympic Trials that will take place in Los Angeles in February. The top three finishers will compete in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August.

“Over the years, I’ve seen my sister run and, I mean, she’s fast,” Sarah Miller said. “I want to follow in my sister’s footsteps and, someday, I will run just like my sister.”

She said that her school does not currently have a running and walking group, so she wanted to start one for the sake of camaraderie and fitness.

The Macomb Academy is a charter school in Clinton Township for 18- to 26-year-old students who received special education services in high school. The school provides daily living skills and employment training.

“I am a very positive girl,” she said. “Running and walking is fun. It makes you feel good when you just get out there and run.”

Dale Miller, Sarah Miller’s father, said he is meeting with school officials over Christmas break to figure out the logistics of starting a group for fellowship and exercise.

He added that Kevin and Keith Hanson, owners of Hansons Running Shop, are on board with supporting Sarah Miller. Danielle Miller works at Hansons Running Shop in Utica.

“It’d be kind of neat,” Dale Miller said. “It might be fun to go to some different races; plus, you’ve got some Olympians who would encourage them.”

Michael Ward, who directs many local races in the Shelby Township area, including the Jingle Bell 5K, said he missed his helper at the Dec. 13 event, but that he was proud of Sarah Miller.

“She did phenomenal. She walked and ran with her dad’s friend, with her mostly walking near the end, but she wanted to run through the finish line,” Ward said. “The look on her face was priceless.”

He said he gave a special medal to Sarah Miller for finishing the 5K.

“She’s always helped. Every year, she was the coffee girl. Last year, I expended and she gave all the dogs their medals. It wasn’t the same without Sarah,” Ward said. “She’s so special, and she just perseveres. I hope she runs again next year.”

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