Being a high school athlete is a full-time job. There are practices before and after school, competitions on weekends, and summers consist of training for the following year.
Add in a full slate of classwork, including 10 Advanced Placement courses, and you have just a snippet of Brooke Milam’s four years in high school.
The Golden Valley runner made great strides in the sports of cross-country and track and field every season, culminating in a senior year with personal records in both sports.
However, it’s her achievements outside of athletics that make her one of the most unique and gifted student-athletes that ever set foot on the Golden Valley campus.
Milam maintained a minimum grade point average of 4.0 every year in high school and graduated with a 4.57 cumulative GPA. She took 10 AP courses, including five in her senior year, and passed all the AP exams.
She co-founded the Lighthouse club on campus with fellow runner Daniel Rush, a ministry that provides an opportunity for students to share their faith.
She was one of three students to receive a special award from Golden Valley principal Sal Frias for outstanding achievement in academics, leadership and service.
Despite all that Milam has accomplished on and off the track, the humble student-athlete credited her support system and her faith as the main factors that always kept her grounded.
“It was definitely difficult, there were times I don’t think I got enough sleep,” Milam said with a laugh. “I think it was the people in my life, they made it easier. I could look at this long list of things I’ve done, but I just think of the people who helped me. I couldn’t have done it without all of them. My coaches motivating me, my parents supporting me, my teammates, having a shoulder to cry on, laugh about things, bounce stress off of each other, push each other in practice. It made it a lot easier to handle.
“Ultimately, it was God’s grace that I was able to do everything, that was a huge thing that kept me together too. Reminding myself that I’m pursuing excellence in every part of my life to honor God, so that was a huge thing as well that helped me keep things together.”
If balancing a full-time schedule wasn’t enough, Milam also had to combat anemia and bone density issues in her freshman and sophomore years.
Anemia is a condition in which there aren’t enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to tissues in the body, resulting in fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness and lightheadedness.
Milam struggled in cross-country her first year and often found herself exhausted after runs. When she logged a 7 minute, 40 second mark in a mile time trial, she knew something wasn’t right.
“Freshman year I was really anemic the whole season and I didn’t even know it. I just thought I was bad at cross-country,” she said. “My coach told me, ‘I think you’re anemic.’ My ferritin level was a three and it’s recommended to be at least 30 for female runners. My coaches were joking like, ‘How are you alive, how are you walking?’ It just made every run feel awful. It also led to some bone density issues. I had shin splints which got me sophomore year and I had a stress fracture so I was out sophomore year.”
Ferritin is a protein produced by the body that stores and regulates iron.
Milam’s ferritin level was so low, she almost required a blood transfusion. Fortunately, she was able to take two supplements a day to help build up iron in her body and then reduced it to one supplement a day.
With her health issues resolved, Milam was able to flourish in the last two years in the sports she loves.
She set personal records in cross-country in the 2.93-mile race with a time of 21:03.0 and the 3-mile with a time of 19:42.0.
In track and field, she broke the 12-minute mark in the 3,200-meter with a PR of 11:46.20 and also set a PR in the 1,600-meter at the Foothill League Prelims with a mark of 5:31.66.
“She worked really hard to overcome a tough freshman season, struggling with anemia, in order to come out on top as an incredible athlete who will leave a lasting impression on Golden Valley,” said Rush, who will be attending The Master’s University with Milam in the fall. “It’s been amazing having Brooke as a teammate in high school, as well as moving on to college together. She is one of the hardest working people I know who will never even think about settling for less than her best in the classroom or on the track.”
Milam, who will be majoring in liberal studies at TMU, will also compete on the cross-country team along with Rush.
A history buff, she said she wants to become an elementary school teacher with the possibility of going into higher education to teach history, if the right situation arises.
She also said she’d consider coaching cross-country in the future, something that Golden Valley cross-country coach Wes Hinson already hinted at.
For now, Milam is focusing on work and preparing for her freshman year at TMU. And if she ever decides to take on a coaching role, she will use her experiences throughout her athletic career as a teaching tool to help other runners going through similar situations.
“In times of injury and hardship, all you can do is put forth your best effort. For me, when I was injured, I just spent time observing and still being part of the team,” Milam said. “No matter your health condition or your ability as a runner, you still are an important part of the team. It is what you make it. I would encourage people to just trust the process, listen to your body, try to be there for your teammates. Use it as an opportunity to learn and observe how a team works, ultimately just trusting the process and trusting your coaches.”