The only pain Lafayette Jeff senior Dustin Miller accrues from the diving boards these days comes from not finishing first.
Miller is diving without pain, and he hopes that trend continues Saturday when he competes in the IHSAA state finals at IU Natatorium in Indianapolis.
This summer, a visit to Riley Hospital in Indianapolis determined Miller suffers from juvenile onset arthritis, which limited his flexibility and required longer preparation time for competition.
“I would wake up and feel like I just had an eight-mile jog,” Miller said. “It was weird.”
Miller now receives injections weekly or bi-weekly that keep the pain under control.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, juvenile arthritis typically occurs in children under the age of 16 and causes joint pain, swelling and stiffness.
It stunted Miller’s ability to gain muscle mass.
He’d go through weight-training sessions and not gain muscle. He wasn’t able to get fully flexible for diving during his first three seasons with the Bronchos and still managed a 13th-place finish at the state finals as a junior.
The injections have cured the soreness, and it’s showing.
Earlier this season, Miller broke the Hoosier Crossroads Conference meet diving record, previously held by Olympic gold medalist David Boudia. On a wild Tuesday night where the power went out at Hamilton Southeastern, forcing a change in venues, Miller was not fazed and won his first regional diving title.
It’s the kind of talent Lafayette Jeff diving coach Deana Sotelo knew Miller, who is committed to dive for Florida State next year, possessed.
“I really thought that he was capable of that,” Sotelo said. “I believe he’s got tons of potential. He hasn’t maxed it out, even now. Going to Florida State is going to be a great opportunity for him.”
Miller now has his sights set on giving Lafayette Jeff’s boys swimming and diving program its first state champion since Gary Thomas won the 100- and 200-yard freestyles in 1966.
He spent the summer outscoring LaPorte senior Josh Arndt, the defending state champion.
“I definitely had a lot of confidence coming into this year,” Miller said. “I have beaten the state champion twice the past three times I went against him. And I went to junior nationals, which he didn’t qualify for.”
Miller admittedly entered the finals nervous a year ago.
This season, like his arthritic pain, the nerves have not been a factor. Saturday will test that, but Miller believes he is ready for the challenge.
“I am going to have to go in with the same composure and stay mentally tough, some things I’ve worked on in the past year,” Miller said. “I read some books on other people that have been on the top and pushed a little more to get there.”