Cole Miller is putting himself and Alaska gymnastics on the map by making history

Being the best at a sport in a state where elite competition is scarce and the sport itself isn’t widely popular among males may not sound impressive on the surface.

However, what sets Palmer gymnast Cole Miller apart from all the rest is how well he has performed when he took his talents to the Lower 48 to compete.

To test and sharpen his skills as well as put Alaska on the map, he regularly travels to take part in competitions against upper-echelon competitors and has enjoyed tremendous success.

“There isn’t much gymnastics in-state necessarily,” Miller said. “There’s two main gyms in the (Mat-Su) Valley and one in Anchorage. A lot of it is out-of-state travel.”

He travels to five or more out-of-state meets a year, and this past season alone, he has competed in Texas, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Montana.

“It’s two or three during the regular season and then everyone travels for regions and nationals,” Miller said.

Last month, Miller was in Daytona Beach, Florida, to compete in nationals and put up impressive results. He finished second in floor, fifth in vault, 10th on bars and finished second overall out of more than 100 athletes.


“That is the highest ranking that anyone from Alaska has ever gotten for a gymnastics title, so I was pretty proud of that,” Miller said.

It was a truly validating experience and accomplishment for him.

“Putting in the months on end of work and being able to show up to a meet like that and perform to the best of my ability,” Miller said. “Obviously, I still have much to improve on, but it was super cool and a great experience. I was super happy to perform for Alaska.”

With this latest achievement on top of all the others he’s accumulated since he began competing in the sport when he was 7, Miller — now 16 — is believed to be among the most accomplished youth gymnasts in the history of the state.

“It’s kind of a crazy feeling but it is pretty rewarding with all the hours, blood, sweat and tears that go into the sport,” he said. “It’s definitely a rewarding feeling given all I’ve put into it over the years.”

It marked his fifth time competing in nationals and yielded the best results by far to date. His long list of accolades includes making junior nationals twice from ages 10-12 and winning five Region II titles. He has also won eight state titles.

“This year I was able to go back to Kentucky as well, and I competed in an elite team all-star competition for the second year,” Miller said. “That (includes) the top six guys from every region as well.”

Family ties and influence

Miller first took up gymnastics shortly after he learned to walk at 18 months old. It all started with a mother-baby class and transitioned into competitive gymnastics when he was about 7 or 8.

He attributes the time he spent learning the fundamentals and bonding with his mom as the spark that ignited his love for the sport.

“It definitely gave me a love for being in the gym and doing gymnastics,” Miller said.

He is the youngest of his parents’ three children, and while his older sisters were talented gymnasts in their own right, he is proud to hold the mantle as the most decorated gymnast from the family.

“It feels pretty good but they definitely keep me in check,” he said. “They don’t let me brag about it too much.”

Being well-rounded and breaking stigmas

Although gymnastics was and still is his first love when it comes to sports, Miller has also thrived in other activities over the years. He played high school soccer at Palmer this past spring and helped the Moose place third at state, and he also wrestles for the Mat-Su Matmen and won a state title at age 12 with the program.

The only scholastic gymnastics teams are in the Anchorage area, and since there aren’t any school-sanctioned teams for boys, Miller attends Mat-Su Career & Tech High School and is a member of the Denali Gymnastics boys competitive team.

“People don’t associate men with gymnastics, so it’s a good feeling to put on for our boys program and get some recognition for sure,” he said.

Miller believes that becoming an elite gymnast requires a “lot of hard work, a lot of hours in the gym and a lot of support from your family.” He trains five days a week for three to four hours at a time year-round and has been working with coach Ryan Childers for the past six years.

“He is probably the biggest contributing factor other than my family and the Lord,” Miller said. “He has been there helping me improve as a person and as a gymnast the whole way.”

He said his long-term goals are to earn a scholarship to compete for a Division I program and make it to the Olympics, if “it’s in the cards.”

Josh Reed

Josh Reed is a sports reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He's a graduate of West High School and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.