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FARMINGTON – Morgan Miller has made big strides in her backstrokes over the last year, and her growth became apparent swimming with the Four Corners Aquatic Team over the summer.

She won the 50-meter and 200-meter backstrokes and placed fourth in the 100-meter backstroke state championships July 27-30 in Farmington, qualifying for the Western Zone regional championships Aug. 2-5 in Clovis, Calif.

"We've been working on getting her hips up and getting her stroke rate up a little higher, so her arms are moving a little faster," FCAT coach Mike McCluhan said. "It just got her whole race faster. All her splits were just considerably faster than what they have been."

Although Miller had to settle for placing in the top-40 out of roughly 100 swimmers per event, the Piedra Vista swimmer is happy with her latest progress.

"It would've been nice to have some recovery time (between state and regionals), but everything worked out. I'm happy with the way that (regionals) went," Miller said.

Miller previously lived in Las Cruces, which she said one of her former assistant swim coaches felt she showed promise in the backstroke events. Initially unsure of it, she decided to spend more time working on and competing in backstrokes.

And because Miller has asthma, that particular stroke became more natural to her and is easier on her breathing patterns in the pool.

"Being able to swim on my back is a little bit easier," Miller said.

For Miller, who's also working on improving her endurance in the longer freestyle races, her next step in the backstroke to keep increasing her speed in that event.

Miller said she will also keep working on her kicks after making the final turn in the backstroke events because it'll help her be better able to go further completing the final lap in each race.

Miller begins the short-course season Monday at the Farmington Aquatic Center, and she said she won't compete for the Lady Panthers this winter so she can resume her latest training regimen with FCAT.

Miller said going back and forth between club and high school swimming messes with her training psychologically.

"I'm really excited to see what that does for me, being able to keep a constant style of training," Miller said.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.

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