Even more fascinating than her name are the vast accomplishments and ambitions of Zinnia Miller. The 20-year-old junior college student is studying leisure studies with an emphasis in therapeutic recreation at the University of Iowa. She attended Florida Air Academy as an eleventh and twelfth grade student, and is the daughter of Robert and Sophia Miller of Abaco.
Although Zinnia stated that she has not yet won any medals as a student-athlete, the training she undergoes is quite competitive, and her university is at the top conference level in track and field.
Nevertheless, this personable young woman is proud about placing among the top 20 collegiate athletes, who call themselves multi-event specialists.
Amazingly, she participates in seven events and specializes in high jump and long jump, and is a member of the 4×100 and 4×400 relay teams. She is still open to where this season and her dedication to training will take her as she completes her indoor events and settles into outdoor season.
Her athletic profile for the 2012 indoor season indicated a 12th place finish in pentathlon at Big Ten Championships, where she scored a team-leading and collegiate-best 3,416 of total points to rank sixth all-time at Iowa.
Zinnia also posted a high jump of 1.68 meter to rank eighth all-time at Iowa; she won long jump with a 5.63m jump; and soared to 1.67m in the high jump to place second at the New Year’s Classic meet. She has also been acknowledged for her outstanding accomplishments in the 100-meter hurdles, shot put, and 200 meters.
At Florida Air Academy, she competed in basketball, volleyball and soccer. Zinnia said that Florida Air Academy prepared her well for college life, adulthood and becoming independent. She decided to attend the University of Iowa after a college visit because it has “a great environment.”
She said the environment is friendly, and although she has never met any Bahamian students on campus, there are a number of students from the Caribbean she hangs with. The most challenging aspect of college life as a student-athlete has been balancing athletics with school, rising above adversity, and working through the frustration that comes from being injured.
“Being a normal student is already tough, and then there’s practice, so sometimes sleep has to suffer,” she said.
Besides, the field she is a majoring in is no walk in the park. As she explained, leisure studies is a broad topic, so she can venture into sports management or athletic training. Overall, she would like to use sports to help people – whether they are children, middle age or elderly with disabilities like cerebral palsy for example. For people who can’t walk well, she finds sports that are therapeutic, but will help them to get better and have fun.
Zinnia said that there is also an emotional component of treatment that goes beyond addressing the disorder because some things are difficult to deal with. In some cases, people have surgeries and have things taken away and their left to live a life that is not like it was before.
“Sometimes you can’t avoid the fact that there’s going to be a change in life, but you have to try to make them feel as though they’re someone special – not to be a softhearted person and show pity because sometimes that messes up with them as well because you feel sorry for them, so you let your emotions take over,” Zinnia cautioned. “You have to have more of a stronger heart in the situation, but also think with both your heart and your mind.”
Nevertheless, in her own life she is able to seek motivation from her belief in God, her parents, her friends at school and at home, and an overall great support system of people who are close to her.
She shared: “Prayer is the only thing that helps me to survive. God is who brought me here; it is all through God’s power, and He has a plan for me.”
Speaking of plans, her short-term goals include scoring more points for her school team to show just how tough she is, and that she can be one of the best. So far, her practices have been going well, so when competition comes around, she will be well-prepared to perform at her best. Zinnia also plans to stay in Iowa until August, so she can find a good summer job.
“I want to show my parents that they raised a good daughter and make them proud,” she added.
She encouraged others like herself to keep God first because sometimes there are lonely days, but said He is going to show up when you least expect.
“You still have to do your part, stay focused with your books and studying, and as a student-athlete – give your all in practice and competition because it’s going to pay off eventually.”