“The Best”. No better words could be used to describe the season Sydney Milani had as a senior for the SE Polk Rams in the spring of 2018. No other athlete, male or female, in the long history of Iowa HS track and field had ever won the 100, 200, 400, and 800 meter runs in the state championships. And not just the best in 2018. The marks she set in the 100, 200, and 400 would go down as the fastest runs in state history. Her magical season will live forever as one of a kind.

But how did her 2018 season even come to be? She was one of the better athletes in her class until her senior year, but there was not much to indicate the type of staggering performances we would see throughout the season. I recently sent Sydney a list of questions about that season and other questions to try to figure out just how she become the unstoppable force that she did. If you know Sydney you know that she was more than willing and excited to share her thoughts and memories. What follows is Part 1 of a 2-Part story on her rise to the top of the Iowa High School record books. (All answers are exactly as she wrote them and sic.)

Q1. Who is your favorite track athlete to watch?

A1. Of course, I love to watch the pros like Sydney McGlaughlin because athletes like her are so prestige I think their performances are great learning tools but I personally love to watch my own teammates and athletes that I have a personal connection with because it is so fun for me to be proud of them and go through it with them.

Q2. What is your favorite event to run?

A2. My favorite overall event is by far the 4×4. Best race in track and field by far because that race was held very close to my high school coach’s heart- Coach Willeford so it makes me proud to represent him. And because when you are fighting to win for the team you grow to love as family, the fight to win becomes personal and everyone in the stadium knows it- coaches, athletes, and spectators so the energy is insane.

Final high school 4x400 meter relay.

Final high school 4×400 meter relay.

Q3. What field event would you love to do and why?

A3. If I could do a field event I would love to throw Jav because ever since I was little I’ve been able to throw a football as far as the boys.

Q4. What got you interested in track?

A4. I started doing track just because it kept me sharp for soccer and because all my friends did it but what truly got me interested in track was the culture, the people, and to be totally honest the fact that I didn’t win a whole lot. Soccer came really easy to me and since I was fast I was able to just run and score. I didn’t lose at soccer often. But when I ran track I lost a lot and it burned every fiber in my body because I’m competitive so I started loving the chase.

Q5. What were your goals when you first started high school track?

A5. My goals when I first started high school track were simply to get in shape for soccer and impress my Dad and coaches.

Q6. When did you first realize you could become the fastest sprinter/long sprinter in state history?

A6. I didn’t realize I could be the fastest sprinter in Iowa history until after it had already happened. I knew I was putting in the work so I knew it was there and possible but to those that didn’t know me I kinda came out of nowhere and I can imagine I upset a few of the girls who were going into that season thinking they’d win those state finals. My point is – no one is unbeatable and upsets happen all the time. Always be confident but stay quiet and be humble until the work is done.

Q7. What was the biggest difference in your senior year from the rest of your career?

A7. Throughout my whole life, I have always worked really hard towards my athletics but progress takes time so through puberty and consistency that hard work really caught up with me and benefited me senior year. But of course, through knowledge and help I did tweak my training more and more each year. My senior year I didn’t start training for track the first day of practice I started a week after cross country season. I was lifting before school and then running after every day. The smallest things however made the biggest difference and were also the hardest to do. Such as drinking 100oz of water daily, getting plenty of sleep, doing pushups and sit-ups before bed every night religiously, and choosing training over friends and leisure time. If you surround yourself with the right people. They will encourage you to take a rain check instead of talking you out of training to hang out with them. I was very lucky.

Q8. You’re very muscular. How did you build your physique and how do you think it helped your performance?

A8. My Dad had me in the weight room by the time I was 7 or 8 years old. Lifting and eating correctly was a huge aspect of building my physique. A lot of people argue that lifting at a young age is bad for kids but as long as weight room safety and proper form are enforced I think it is nothing but awesome. I mean I think I turned out just fine. Knowing how to lift and being mindful of my physique is really what sets me apart in athletics. It made me a more well-rounded athlete, prevented injury, gave me the knowledge to notice little details in my training, and even benefited me with cross country despite the stereotypical thought that distance athletes shouldn’t be in the weight room. Although different events/ sports should be doing different things in the weight room- it is still vital that all athletes are in the weight room.

Sydney as a freshman.

Sydney as a freshman.

Sydney as a senior.

Sydney as a senior.

Part 2 will be published tomorrow and includes a training block directly from her practice diary. Make sure to check it out so you can learn more about her favorite race memories, mentors, and plans for the future. Feel free to take a quick tour of the website and see how the Performance Lab can help you reach your athletic goals.

Ben Tilus
Head Performance Coach
XLR8 Performance Lab