St. Joseph’s swimmer Amy Miller doesn’t let injury deter her _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- St. Joseph's Academy senior Amy Miller practices the breaststroke on Tuesday at Crawfish Aquatics. Miller has made a verbal commitment to swim for Texas A&M.

Mention “Tommy John surgery” and the vision of an injured baseball pitcher always comes to mind.

St. Joseph’s Academy swimmer Amy Miller doesn’t fit that mold. That’s nothing new for the senior who committed to Texas A&M on Monday.

“When I was younger, I didn’t want to swim,” Miller said. “That was something my sister did, and I wanted to do something that was mine.

“I played volleyball through my ninth-grade year. For a while I was that kid … one who didn’t know which sport to do. As I got older, I started to understand and like swimming a lot more.”

Miller is part of a talented SJA team that seeks its 16th straight title at the Capital City Swim League Championships this weekend. Miller’s story was like no other prior to the commitment component.

To understand it, you have to go back a few years. Miller broke her arm at the elbow during a swimming drylands training exercise when she was a sixth-grader.

“We were going backwards and I fell on my elbow and broke it near the growth plate,” Miller said. “I was in a cast for a while. They think the (ulnar collateral) ligament probably tore then.

“It wasn’t until I started swimming more and putting in a lot of yardage that I started bothering me.”

That’s right — Miller had a torn ligament, not a stretched ligament like baseball pitchers have.

When Dr. Felix “Buddy” Savoie of Tulane’s Institute of Sports Medicine performed surgery to repair the ligament in mid-December there was supposed to be an eight-month recovery process. Dedication to rehab got the 6-foot-1 Miller back in the pool by late March.

“After the surgery, we figured it might take her most of the season to get back to where she was,” St. Joseph’s coach Becca Barber said. “What’s she’s done is incredible.

“Amy’s a good student and teammate, she’s active in a bunch of clubs and she always finds a way to make people laugh. Seeing good things happen for her is great.”

Miller has always been a sprinter who was at her best in short races. She won the 100-yard breaststroke in 1 minute, 4.34 seconds and was second in the 100 freestyle in 51.79 seconds at the LHSAA’s Division I state swim meet last November.

The thing that helped ramp up Miller’s recruiting was a 50-meter freestyle time of 26.75 seconds at the Louisiana Long Course Swimming Championships held over the summer. That time was just off the junior national qualifying time of 26.67.

“Amy couldn’t get in the water for several months, but she was always working,” Jayme Cramer, Miller’s Crawfish Aquatics coach, said. “She couldn’t do much work with her arms, so she worked on making her legs stronger, and now they’re stronger than they’ve every been.

“The first two meets after she came back were tough to watch because she wasn’t able to do what she normally did. It would have been easy to give up, but she didn’t. Now her upper body is catching up with her legs and she’s more technically sound after compensating because of the pain.”

Miller also made official visits to South Carolina, Utah, Nebraska, A&M and Ohio State. Getting the recruiting process squared away before the CCSL meet and LHSAA State Swim meet in mid-November was crucial for Miller, an honor student who plans a pre-nursing major, and is set to sign with the Aggie next month.

“I got the see a lot of different parts of the country on my visits,” Miller said. “But I wanted that make decision before the city and state meets so I wouldn’t be nervous or worried about anything else. This part of the season is so important for all of us as a team.”