UF sophomore was part of the fastest 4x400 relay team in NCAA history, but after losing 12 pounds he wasn't sure if he could run in the championships.
After shattering the all-time collegiate record earlier this season, there was little doubt that Palm Coast's Jacob Miley and his University of Florida teammates would win the men's 4x400 relay title at the NCAA championships.
If Miley was healthy enough to run.
The Flagler Palm Coast High grad had contracted the flu at the NCAA East Regionals less than two weeks earlier and he still wasn't in tip-top shape when the Gators arrived in Eugene, Oregon, for the championships.
He ran in the 400-meter quarterfinals at the regionals on May 27, but two hours later he felt too sick to run in the relay. Qualifying for the championships without the sophomore was not a problem. But after the meet, Miley's symptoms got worse.
"I had super bad symptoms the next day," he said. "I didn't eat for three or four days. I lost my voice. I didn't practice at all until five days later. I never did anything all out."
His fever reached 104. He wound up losing 12 pounds. He said he didn't feel feel like he was all the way back until the championship prelims on June 8.
"Fifteen minutes before prelims, we didn't know if he was going to run," said Miley's mother, Tracy Miley.
He did run. And UF's Jacory Patterson, Ryan Willie, Miley and Champion Allison went on to win the 4x400 title with the second best time in college history — they already had the best time.
Miley's 45.8 split wasn't his best, but it was good enough.
"Once he handed it off to (anchor runner Allison), we knew we got this," Tracy Miley said.
The Gators went on two sweep the men's and women's team championships.
"It's always been a dream of mine to win nationals, especially with my team and on such a competitive stage," he said. "It's like a dream come true."
As early as last fall, Miley told his parents that the 4x400 relay team was going to win the championship. Patterson and Allison had transferred in to join Willie and Miley.
"At the beginning of the year, he was talking about, 'We're going to win nationals.' He was confident where they were going to be at the end of the year."
"At the beginning of the year, he was talking about, 'We're going to win nationals,'" Tracy Miley said. "He was confident where they were going to be at the end of the year."
Miley said he could see the team's potential early on.
"Some of my teammates started doing crazy times, and I started catching up to them," he said. "I started running really, really fast."
The quartet became the first collegiate 4x400 relay team to break the 2:59 barrier when they ran an NCAA record 2:58.53 at the Tom Jones Memorial on April 16 in Gainesville. The foursome did it again in the NCAA championship final with a 2:58.88 to beat second-place Southern California by over a second.
Allison (second) and Willie (fifth) also finished among the top eight in the 400-meter final.
A perfect scenario might have been breaking the college relay record again in the final, but Miley wasn't even sure if he would be ready to run at all.
"I knew I was going to try no matter what. Everything was about trying to get me back as best I could. We were banking on me running at least decent."
"I knew I was going to try no matter what," he said. "Everything was about trying to get me back as best I could. We were banking on me running at least decent. It definitely would have been cool (to break the record in the final), but we already had the collegiate record."
Miley came to Florida as an 800-meter runner. He finished second in the event at the 2019 Class 4A state championships, when he was a senior at FPC. Florida coach Mike Holloway converted him into a 400 runner last year.
The 6-foot-6, 197-pound Miley realizes he was never built to be a distance runner. He started running track at Matanzas High to improve his speed for football.
"My freshman year, my track coach started throwing me into events, and I did good in the 800," he said. "As I got older you could tell I needed to change."
Realizing he had a chance to run track for a major university, he dropped football and transferred to FPC his senior year. He has been running the 4x400 relay at UF since his COVID-interrupted freshman season in 2020. He dropped the 800 and started running the 400 meters after the 2021 indoor season.
"This is my first full year running the 400, the first year I've practiced (running out of the) blocks," he said. "Now, I'm starting to get it. Coach (Holloway) said I probably would have made nationals (in the 400) if I didn't get sick."
He also ran the 200 at the LSU Invitational, recording a time of 21.25 seconds.
"I react really well to speed training," he said. "I'm trusting the workouts. I'm trusting the training."
FPC track coach Dave Halliday watched the 4x400 final on TV. But he said it took a while for him to process the achievement.
"It kind of took me about 24 hours," Halliday said. "Then it really hit me. Jacob is part of the fastest relay ever in the history of the NCAA's."