Tom Archdeacon: Miami Valley athletes hope life matches Olympic art

·6 min read

Jun. 25—They all hope life imitates art.

Nine years ago — just before she competed in the London Olympics — Chantae McMillan had the five interlocking Olympic rings tattooed on her right biceps as a reminder of her ultimate achievement.

Today, the former volunteer coach at the University of Dayton who has been living in Troy, hopes the old ink provides new inspiration as she — along with her training partner, UD sophomore standout Casey Bogues — begins her quest in the javelin competition at the Olympic Team Trials at Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus.

The ultimate goal is the Olympic Games that begin in Tokyo on July 23 and run until Aug. 8.

McMillan and Bogues compete this afternoon at 4 p.m. (EST) in the qualifying rounds of the javelin. The finals are Saturday night and only the top three finishers — provided they have made the Olympic qualifying mark — make the team.

It will be a longshot for both Bogues and the 33-year-old McMillan. Neither has made the Olympic standard of 64 meters — McMillan's best effort is 53.52 meters and Bogues is 53.39 — and the top competitor in the U.S., Maggie Malone, a 2016 Olympian in Rio — had a 66.82 meter (219 feet, 3 inches) throw last month.

But when it comes to the Olympics, McMillan has beaten long odds before.

Competing in the heptathlon in 2012 — the University of Nebraska grad who had moved to Dayton to train that year — was just coming off surgery for a torn patellar tendon in her left knee, had no sponsors, and had no international experience.

At the Trials, she set personal records in five of the heptathlon's seven events and finished third to make the U.S. team. A bout with the flu did her in at the London Games and she ended up 29th.

She missed qualifying for the heptathlon at the 2016 Trials and then flirted with becoming a Winter Olympian, though her 2017 bobsled efforts ended with a concussion.

Since then she switched to the javelin and has made great strides the past few months under the tutelage of UD throws coach Kevin Gilhuly.

He coaches Bogues, as well, and after he helped her change everything from her grip and approach to her thinking, she blossomed in 2021. She won the Atlantic 10 Championship — setting a UD and conference record in the process — and then finished 11th at the NCAA Championships with that career-best 53.39 throw (just over 175 feet).

If Bogues and McMillan face an uphill battle to make the Tokyo-bound team, Xenia steeplechaser Daniel Michalski has a good shot at becoming a 2021 Olympian.

The NCAA Division II steeplechase champion when he was competing for four years at Cedarville University, he went on to Indiana University as a grad transfer this past season and again won All America honors.

He finished third in his heat Monday — with a time of 8 minutes, 22.03 seconds — and runs the final tonight.

Yet, this is not to say the 25-year-old Michalski has had it easy.

A year ago he was delivering groceries for Walmart.

When the COVID-19 pandemic upended so much in life last year, he lost his job as a realtor. That's when he started at Walmart.

But when he and his wife Abby found out she was pregnant — daughter Daley was born this past January — he realized he needed a job with benefits.

With the help of a coaching friend, he landed a job as the head cross country coach at LeTourneau University, a private, Christian school in Longview, Texas that competes at the NCAA Division III level.

He kept up his training and in April he broke the longstanding steeplechase record at the Drake Relays with an 8 minutes, 29.83 second victory. In May he ran a personal best 8:21.25 at the USATF Golden Games in Walnut, Calif. That time met the Olympic standard.

On Sunday, Grace Norman — who grew up outside of Jamestown, starred four years at Cedarville University (from which she just graduated) and won a gold medal in the triathlon at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016 — will compete at Pleasant Prairie, Wis., in the final USA qualifier for the Tokyo Paralympics, which will run Aug. 24-Sept 5.

The full U.S. Paralympic team will be announced early in July.

Norman — who is missing part of her left leg and runs with a J-shaped, carbon fiber, Cheetah prosthetic — is one of the most accomplished and well-travelled athletes in the Miami Valley. She has competed all over the globe.

She is currently ranked No. 3 in the world in the PTS5 category and is No. 1 in the US.

Former Dayton Dutch Lions soccer player Rose Lavelle is headed to Tokyo Games.

The Mount Notre Dame High School grad who won first team All-Big Ten honors four years straight at Wisconsin, was named to the U.S. Women's Olympic soccer team Wednesday night.

She played with the Dayton team in 2014 and 2016 and now is a midfielder with the OL Reign of the National Women's Soccer League and also has played this year with Manchester City in England.

Earlier this week, Tri-Village grad Clayton Murphy became a two-time Olympian when he upset the "so-called" favorites to win the 800 meter race at the Trials. He had won the 800 at the Trials four years ago too and then took bronze in the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Between those games and these, much in his life changed. Most notably he returned to his old coach — Lee LaBadie, who had mentored him at the University of Akron — and he married Olympic sprinter Ariana Washington.

McMillan went through a lot of changes as well over the last four years.

She married former UD football standout and Sidney High assistant coach Devon Langhorst, who is now a Blackhawk helicopter pilot in the Army and about to be stationed outside Washington, D.C.

The couple has a 2-year-old son Otto and he and his mom eventually will move to the D.C. area, as well.

This week though Otto and his grandmother, Peggy McMillan, are out in Eugene with Chantae.

She finished her last throwing exercises on Wednesday and Thursday was mostly just about "getting her mind right." Gilhuly said.

"These are her third Olympic Trials, she knows what to do," he said. "As they say, the hay is in the barn now."

He said McMillan, her son and her mom are staying at an Airbnb: "They're having a good time together and have taken in a few sights here in Eugene."

But she knows — as do Bogues, Michalski and Norman — the only sight that really matters at this stage of the game is those five interlocking Olympic rings.

The ones McMillan has inked on her arm.

Each of the athletes hopes their life now imitates that art.

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