Siblings swimming toward success

David La

It’s not easy to follow a good act, as Shelley Miller found out this fall. Miller is a freshman on the Gophers swimming and diving team, following in the footsteps of her older brother Jeff. Or is she?
Shelley certainly doesn’t feel that way, although those who know her brother might disagree.
“It took me a little while to let people know about my own personality,” Shelley said. “Sometimes people think that we are more alike than we actually are.
“I was introduced as (Jeff) `Miller’s little sister,’ but people learned real quick that I’m a separate person.”
Not that her brother Jeff is bad company with whom to be associated. Jeff Miller is an accomplished swimmer on another strong men’s team, finishing 16th in the 1650 freestyle at last season’s Big Ten championships, and was an Academic All-American to boot.
The other Gophers brother-sister combination is John and Ann Cahoy. John is a senior this year, and is an outstanding performer in the pool and the classroom.
“It’s all about winning,” John said.
John was a member of the Big Ten champion (9th in the NCAA) 400 freestyle relay team last year, participated in the 1998 Goodwill Games and will compete in the World University Games in July 1999. John is also an achiever in the classroom, witnessed by Academic All-Big Ten honors last season.
Undaunted, sophomore Ann Cahoy has been busy making a name of her own. She scored Minnesota’s fourth-highest point total (45) at last year’s Big Ten championships, and looks to continue her success this season.
She doesn’t have to look too far for motivation or support — she gets plenty of both from her brother John.
“Having (John) to talk to and relate to is such a plus for me,” Ann said. “I really look up to him.”
Shelley Miller echoes these same sentiments about her brother.
“It makes me feel good to hear compliments about (Jeff),” Shelley said. “I kind of feed off that, hoping that I’ll hear the same kinds of things about myself.”
Her brother’s reputation is not all she wants, however.
“I’ve seen my brother’s (Big Ten) ring enough times,” Shelley said. “I’d like one of my own.”
Shelley Miller said the Millers and Cahoys are a microcosm of the two swimming and diving programs.
“Jeff and I get along real well, and John and Ann get along real well,” Shelley said. “I think that represents the attitude of the teams as a whole. We help intensify that closeness.”
Gophers coaches point to the success of the older brothers as an advantage in recruitment, but were careful not to set a precedent by which to measure their sisters.
“In both cases, we had families who were very happy with the University of Minnesota, both academically and swimming-wise,” said men’s swimming and diving coach Dennis Dale. “It made the recruiting of their sisters easier.”
Women’s swimming and diving coach Jean Freeman said she consulted with John and Jeff about their sisters periodically, but pointed out the importance of recruiting Ann and Shelley as individuals.
“I come from a family of swimmers and I’m very protective of an athlete’s individuality,” Freeman said. “I try to learn what (athletes) perceive of themselves, and what they are looking for in a college.”
For their part, John and Jeff credit the arrival of their sisters for helping to enhance an already enjoyable college career. While both brothers claim they did not attempt to sway their sisters’ choice of colleges, one would have to assume they pushed a little harder than they will admit.
After all, who better to go back home and tell mom all the stories than an older brother?
Minnesota hosts the Gold Country Invitational at the Aquatic Center on Jan. 9. Having just completed winter training, the coaches are eager to watch their swimmers perform in competition.
“It’s a meet that’s not horribly fast,” Dale said, “but it gives us a chance to see what we accomplished on our winter training trip.”
“It also gives us a chance to experiment,” Freeman said, “to move some of our athletes into their secondary events.”
For John Cahoy and Jeff Miller, the invitational begins the gun lap of their solid careers. For Shelley Miller and Ann Cahoy, it’s another meet to build on great careers of their own.