When Baylor track champion Lanie Millar "walked on" to the track team as a freshman, she never dreamed she'd have so much success in such a short time. During her junior year, she placed second in the 800-meter race at the Big 12 outdoor track championship and received one of the conference's coveted 13 post-graduate scholarships. She was also named Female Student-Athlete of the Year.
Millar achieved her success through diligence, a can-do attitude, and a love of running.
A love for learning also allowed Millar to achieve success in the classroom. In May, she graduated in the Honors Program, magna cum laude.
"I try to do all the things that I like," Millar said. "I love to run, and I would have run even if I hadn't been on the track team. I chose to major in English because I love to read, and I chose a second major in Spanish because I found out that all the things I liked about reading in English also applied in Spanish. If you love what you do then it doesn't really seem like work."
Although she was on her high school track team, Millar did not plan to try out for the university squad. During her first semester at Baylor, she had her hands full with honors classes and marching band.
"Actually, when I got to Baylor, I thought the academics were very difficult, but I always felt like there was something I was missing," she said.
The St. Louis, Mo., native decided to return to running and tried out for the track team in January of her freshman year. Even as a walk-on, she attended practice every day, just like scholarship athletes.
Millar's hard work paid off when she was given an athletic scholarship her junior year. Millar was the 2002 Big 12 champion in the indoor 800 meters and a two-time NCAA qualifier in the 800 meters. She also shattered school records her final season in both the indoor and out-door 800 meters with times of 2:06.34 and 2:06.08, respectively.
Coach Clyde Hart, Baylor Head Track Coach, compares Millar's track experience to a "story-book" ending.
"She is a remarkable young woman and the most improved athlete I've had in our program," Hart said.
Receiving an athletic scholarship did not slow Millar down academically. In her junior year, Millar decided to pursue a second major in Spanish.
"I wanted to major in English for as long as I can remember, but I didn't do very well when I started taking Spanish. In fact, I struggled quite a bit," she recalled. "But Dr. Frieda Blackwell, who taught Spanish 2302, encouraged me to participate in the Baylor in Spain summer program. I really loved Spain and the classes I took there. I decided to attempt upper-level Spanish classes, and once I did that, I decided I could add Spanish as a second major."
Blackwell, who taught Millar in four classes, knows her pupil well.
"I remember that when I had Lanie for 2302, she made some serious grammar mistakes, but every once in a while, when we were reading a story, she would come up with something really insightful," Blackwell said. "Then I had her for an introduction to Hispanic literature class, and she wrote two of the best papers that I have ever received in that class.
"It was really fun to sit back and watch Lanie develop. She is a hard worker who is amenable to learning things and to being corrected so she can do better."
Millar will pursue her love of Spanish language and literature in graduate school at Middlebury College, one of the top language schools in the country.
"I'm looking forward to seeing how well Lanie does in graduate school and onward," Blackwell said. "She is one of those students who reminds you why you wanted to be a teacher."