Senior Captain Aleesha Miller (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
What does it take for someone to begin a career of swimming knowing nothing about it and eventually become a colligate swimmer at the top of her team? That’s a question to be answered by Senior Captain Aleesha Miller.
“No one in my family had ever been serious about swimming and it definitely took some convincing to let my mom allow me to really get into it,” Miller said “But getting the hang of things wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.”
An Arizona native, Miller began swimming at age eight and almost immediately fell in love with it. At that time, though, her mother had been dead set that she would be a dancer and cheerlead in high school with all of her friends. Miller had other plans for her future.
“I really wanted her to pursue dancing,” said Miller’s mother, Kellie Bowman. “I thought she’d like it too until one day she said she wanted to swim. I was definitely shocked and a little disappointed. But, I told her that if she was going to do it, she couldn’t quit. I look back now and hope that I didn’t scare her into staying with swimming, but she’s so good at it and I love it as much as she does.”
Miller is grateful that her mom understood her dreams even if they weren’t what she originally wanted. She believes that were it not for her mom, she wouldn’t have made it this far in swimming.
“The best part of all of this that is that my mom was always supportive of my swimming,” Miller said. “Neither of us knew anything about swimming, but she took me where I needed to go and always came to my meets to cheer for me.”
Miller and her mom sought the help of a young boy on the team in order to find out what they needed to buy, how to practice and what to aspire to. All the basics of swimming.
“I remember when I didn’t even used to wear a cap,” Miller said. “I just thought it was restrictive. I didn’t know that it actually really helps.”
Miller had to learn most of the basics of swimming through experiences, both bad and good.
“I remember a meet where I showed up right before my race and swam,” she said. “I thought that’s what you did. My coach had to explain to me the importance of warming up and cooling down. I just raced and that’s it. I didn’t know any better.”
It didn’t take long for Miller to get the hang of things and quickly excel in her events. Her biggest accomplishment in high school was setting the Arizona state record in the 50 free with her time of 22:93.
During the recruiting process, Miller visited the University of Nevada, Idaho and BYU. She also got recruited by Arizona State a little later, but she had already made her decision to attend BYU.
“Both of my parents attended BYU,” Miller said. “They obviously wanted me to go, but they wanted me to be able to swim too so they were supportive of wherever I chose. It was a pretty easy choice though.”
As the only collegiate athlete in her family, Miller is highly supported and almost always has a family member at her meets.
“My mom always makes the trip up here from Arizona,” she said. “She’s been to just about every home meet and even some away ones. My dad and my grandparents come too. For conference, a ton of my extended family members come out to Oklahoma to watch me swim. It’s the best feeling to have so many people come to cheer you on.”
Miller has a unique family situation. As the youngest girl in a family of two boys, Miller was presented with a new stepbrother and stepsister when her mother remarried after her father passed away when she was three. She remembers enjoying the expansion of her family.
“Dan, my stepfather, has been there since I can remember and has definitely been a father figure to me,” said Miller. “I would consider our family very lucky because despite our situation, we are very close and supportive of each other.”
“I’ve been her father since she was about four and we don’t differentiate,” Miller’s stepfather, Dan Bowman said. “She’s always been my daughter. She’s a very special person. I’ve never seen her step out of line because she’s a model child. All these years of going to swim meets have been highlight of my life.”
Miller uses the support of her family to give her motivation to push her self and do her best.
“I’m a captain on the team and with that comes a great sense of leadership,” Miller said. “I think our team is the closest it’s ever been and we’ve been able to take advantage of that this year. I have a great relationship with the girls on our team and have been able to help the freshmen learn the ropes.”
Not only is Miller at the top of her as the team captain, but she’s also receiving her degree in Public Health and will walk this April and graduate in August after an internship.
“I love having studied public health and all it encompasses,” she said. “I’m graduating with an emphasis in health promotion because I feel like that is extremely important and needed in this world and our individual communities.
“After I graduate, I’d really like to move back to warm weather and get involved in a non-profit or humanitarian health promotion organization.”
Miller has some great plans for her future, but will miss the environment of the team and all of the accomplishments she has made while at BYU.
“One of my favorite memories here was last year when Kirsty Ferrell and I went 1, 2 in the 50 free at championships last year,” Miller said. “We trained together all year and were able to accomplish something that we really wanted.
“I’ve also loved swimming with these girls for the past four years. The seniors are really close because we came in together and have accomplished so much. Our freshman year they used to call us the ‘fab four’ because we were so close and probably because we were pretty rambunctious.”
There’s no doubt that the team will miss Miller’s and all of her contributions.
“I’ve accomplished more in the past few years than I ever thought I would,” Miller said. “It’s weird to think how I began swimming, not knowing anything about it, and then think about how far I’ve come. It’s definitely been a great journey and I’ll miss it, but I’ve also got a lot to do outside of swimming now.”
With this new step in Miller’s life, she has the support of family and friends who will continue to look out for her and have faith that she can succeed in whatever she chooses to pursue.
“I’ve loved watching her swim over the years and it’s been one of my favorite memories,” Kellie Bowman said. “Aleesha is a driven girl and can do anything she puts her mind to. I have no doubt that she will have a lot of success in her future and her father and I will always be here to support her.”
Aside from her family, Miller also accredits her good experiences and opportunities to having attended BYU.
“The environment here is amazing,” she said. “I have to admit that at first, I thought some things about BYU were a little cheesy. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that I love everything about BYU.
“I love that the coaches can talk about church and relate things to the gospel. I never had a Mormon coach growing up and it’s been great to have that aspect in swimming and school. It’s a different experience that no other team has and it brings us together. I will miss everything about BYU, but I definitely won’t forget all the amazing memories I’ve made.”