By Martie Thompson

Creekside High School senior Makhaila Mills has always been athletic. Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, she participated in ice skating, gymnastics, swimming, diving, and soccer — all before fourth grade, when the family moved  to St. Johns. She eventually settled on track as her sport — and a good decision it was. Makhaila is a state champion and finished fifth nationally in her favorite event, the 100m. She recently committed to the University of Southern California, where she plans to major in human biology with a goal of becoming a dermatologist. Makhaila is the daughter of Tony and Tracy Mills and big sister to Madison (a sophomore at Creekside) and Mason (a fifth grader at Patriot Oaks Academy).

Q: How did you decide to run track?
A: We have always been encouraged by our parents to be active and that’s why I tried so many different sports. When we first moved here, I played flag football and participated in boxing and rowing. When I was 12, my mother sat me down and said I needed to pick one activity and commit to it. My father had played football and my mother ran track, so I decided I wanted to be like my mom and do track. We signed up with the St. Johns Striders and Coach Fields has been my coach ever since.

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Q: Did you take to track immediately?
A: No! When I first tried it, I cried. It was so hard. I was not good at it, and I was used to being good at whatever I tried. But I had promised my mom I would stick with it and my coach said he saw something in me, so I kept showing up and trying. Finally, two years later in eighth grade I started seeing my potential and this motivated me to keep going. I knew I was fast. 

Q: How has your high school track experience been?
A: When I started ninth grade, I was scared to join the Creekside team since the rest of the team was older, plus I had trained with my club team rather than the high school team during conditioning season. But Coach Fields is also the Creekside coach and he just told me to do my thing. He had me run with the boys because he knew I could keep up with them and I earned the team’s respect. In ninth grade, I placed third at states in the 100m, finishing behind a runner who was first in the nation. She really pushed me to be better. In 10th grade I finished first in states in the 100m and second in the 200m. My junior year, last spring, nothing really happened because of COVID, but we had one meet at Bolles and my 11.73 was first in the nation. I also improved my personal record in the 60m indoor event. This spring will be my final season and I am looking forward to it. Our whole team is doing great; we are a very tight team and we all support each other. I love my team and I would be nothing without them and my coach. 

Q: What do you do in your spare time?
A: Training for track is a very high commitment. We start club conditioning in September and then have competitions leading up to high school season in the spring, followed by training for nationals in June and July. The only month we really have off is August. But when I can, I like to go shopping and I love to sleep! Mostly I like to hang out with my friends and teammates. 

Q: How did you decide to commit to the University of Southern California?
A: I was not really considering USC at first, because it is so far away. During the recruiting process, I formed tight bonds with coaches from a couple of different schools (actually, both USCs: University of Southern California and University of South Carolina). But California has everything I need. The academics are superior and they offer the major I want. Also, the coaches have trained many Olympic athletes … and my dream is to go to the Olympics.

Photo courtesy Makhaila Mills
Makhaila Mills

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