After narrowly missing out on the WIAA Division 2 state swimming and diving meet last year, Brooklyn Miller didn’t want to let her chance this season slip away.

The Portage sophomore made sure not to, punching her ticket to this year’s state meet in the 200-yard freestyle behind a seventh place finish at last Saturday’s Stoughton sectional. Miller will be the first Warriors state qualifier since Maria Wilson in 2014, something that has head coach Tammy Tollefson excited.

“We’re thrilled with it and so are all the girls,” she said. “She clearly has the talent for it and it means a lot to all of us.”

According to Miller, she initially didn’t know if her time of 2 minutes, 0.11 seconds was good enough to qualify her for state. The sophomore was at the Portage Cabaret variety show when the qualifying standard times were released last Saturday night before finding out she made it from her father Scott.

“I actually was kind of in my head during the race itself. It wasn’t so much anxiety but anxiousness,” Miller said, describing a feeling of “overflowing happiness” when she found out.

As a freshman, Miller came up four places short of state in the 100 backstroke. That close call provided her with plenty of motivation heading into this season.

“Since I was 12 it was a dream to go to state and now it’s been more of a goal,” she said, adding that missing out on qualifying for the sate club meet with her DeForest Aquatics Club team played a factor as well. “So it was something I need to do for myself to feel good.”

Along with her motivation from last year’s shortcomings, Miller had to improve her technique. Not a natural freestyler, according to Tollefson, Miller had a lot of work to do and needed to improve on her actual stroke and pacing.

“It was really getting her to have proper entry on her arms and also just starting to feel what a true build in an event was, not just speeding up the last five yards,” Tollefson said. “You really have to understand that well in doing a 200 because you’re out there swimming for a while.”

While Miller progressed on her pacing, along with breathing patterns in practice, she said she would work on her arm placement during warm-ups and cool downs. The other big issue facing Miller this season was her tempo, but the 200 became the perfect event for that, according to Tollefson.

“When you’re still working on that and you have the endurance, the 200 becomes a better option for you,” she said. “She just kept dropping time in it and it really came down to that; it was just suiting her so well. This was the one.”

A full team effort

Even though Miller will be the only Warrior competing on Friday, she definitely won’t be alone. Throughout the week, Miller has been practicing with a number of her teammates and has had their support all season. They will be there cheering her on Friday night as well.

“She is also such an amazing team player,” Tollefson said of Miller. “She just speaks highly of the environment and that’s what we want in this team. I think when she goes out to swim she’s doing her best not just for herself but for the team.”

While she is the one garnering the individual accolades, for Miller, the team has been the most important thing to her, describing the group as a family.

“I’ve said it before that we’re so small that it enables us to be really close, but being close is something I cherish being a swimmer,” Miller said. “We’re with each other several hours a day in the summer and during high school, so having such a close knit family and people that support me is a great feeling.”

Soaking everything in

While nerves are sure to be high again, Tollefson wants Miller to just enjoy her first trip to state. The third-year coach said Miller’s anxiousness was noticeable in last week’s Div. 2 Stoughton sectional and hopes she can swim like she did at the Badger North Conference meet in which she place third in the event.

“I’ve already told her I want her to have fun,” Tollefson said. “We want her to go out there and feel that race like she did at conference; being in the moment, doing everything she can and representing her team.”

As for Miller herself, she’s just looking forward to competing at the Natatorium. On top of that she’s happy to get the chance to spend one more meet with her team.

While she is seeded last out of the 16-person field in the event, making a run at the podium will be tough for Miller. However, she and Tollefson both know that thinking about that is fruitless.

“I think she’s going to go in there wanting to have a best time,” Tollefson said. “If she comes out 16th, she’s going to be fine with that and if she comes out with a higher place that will just be icing on the cake.”

“I’m not going to tell myself I should have gotten in by a better seed because what can you do, but it’s just about going out, swimming and seeing how you do,” Miller added.

Follow Sean Davis on Twitter @SDavis_PDR.