LOOKS BRIGHT: Alex Miller’s love of swimming bonds him to pool, brother

Published 11:45 pm Friday, November 28, 2014

By Monique Roth

LAPLACE — Swimming has become a passion — and in some ways even a ministry — for Alex Miller, a 15-year-old sophomore at St. Charles Catholic High School in LaPlace.

Alex, the son of Kristina Bandsma (Miller) and Gregory Miller, is a member of SCC’s Swim Team. He has qualified for state as a freshman and sophomore swimmer.

He placed sixth in the individual medley and ninth in the backstroke at state as a freshman.

This year, as a sophomore, he placed second in district in the backstroke. At state earlier this month, he finished seventh in the backstroke and individual medley, respectively. 

When not competing in state competitions, Alex is still likely to be found in the pool, helping his 13-year-old, autistic brother Andrew, known as Drew. Alex also helps the other swimmers on Drew’s Special Olympics team.

Alex’s mom Kristina said Drew won three gold medals at the Special Olympics State Fall Classic last month, where he swam the 10-meter assisted swim, 15-meter flotation swim and 25-meter flotation swim.

Drew’s success in the pool is helped by Alex, who coaches and guides his younger brother, as well as other Bayouland Special Olympics athletes.

Alex started swimming when he was 4, competing with the LARAYO and Belle Terre swim teams. He learned how to swim under the guidance of former LARAYO Swim Team Coach Michelle Jensen, who now coaches him at SCC.

“I like it because I’m in charge of how I do,” Alex said of swimming, when compared to other sports team sports.

At 9, Alex started to swim for Riverlands Swim Team, the squad he has swam with every summer since. He also worked as a lifeguard this summer under Riverlands Swim Team Coach and Pool Manager Lindsey Vicknair.

“Alex is not only an incredible swimmer, he is a phenomenal person,” Vicknair said. “He encompasses all of the qualities a coach and parent would want. Alex puts 100 percent into everything he does, from swim team practice to his friend and family life.”

Vicknair said Alex is “Drew’s biggest cheerleader.”

“Alex is polite and a great example to all who know him,” she said.

Alex said Drew is “all smiles all the time.” Alex began helping his brother when Drew started swimming with the Special Olympics. He was soon asked by the staff to help the other swimmers.

“It makes me feel good,” Alex said. “It’s the complete opposite of my normal swim practices.”

When asked if he had any reservations about taking the extra time to help out the team, Alex smiled, and said, “I was helping out anyway.”

Alex said Drew enjoys swim practices because he gets to be around his friends, adding Drew “loves to meet new people and is happy to have people with him.”

Alex said he is thankful for the opportunity to help out the swimmers, as the Special Olympics athletes impact him greatly.

“To see them at a meet and see how far they’ve come from practice … to see them receive medals … their smiles are awesome,” he said.

Alex’s smile is awesome, as well, especially when he talks about his little brother.

“They love Drew,” Alex said of his friends, adding having a sibling with special needs has made him more understanding of people’s differences.

Alex is a member of the Beta Club and National Honor Society at SCC, where he also plays soccer. He is enrolled in all honors classes and in the first quarter of this school year made all A’s. He swims year around with South Louisiana Swim Team.

“Alex is a great student with a good work ethic, positive attitude and teamwork mentality,” SCC Director of Instruction and Institutional Advancement Courtney Millet said.