Libby Howell and Anna Miller were two of the top-ranked high school swimmers to come out of their home states in the class of 2017.
Howell, a native of Bixby, Oklahoma, and Miller, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, competed against each other as they were in the same region.
Now, they have crossed paths again as members of Missouri State University’s swimming and diving team coming off record-breaking seasons as freshmen.
And both have also grown into not only roommates but best friends outside of swimming.
“I think a lot of it went back to recruiting,” swimming and diving head coach Dave Collins said. “When we were recruiting both of them, I think it was a big deal. They were both really good swimmers in the region. Although, they may not have known each other, they knew each other’s names during their high school times.
“I think they helped recruit each other to come here.”
Howell and Miller first officially connected the summer before their freshman year after years of following each other’s success in high school via social media.
While they weren’t roommates right off the bat at Missouri State, they immediately became friends upon arriving on campus in August 2017 at the residence halls.
“That is kind of how we grew closer because living with someone is really hard,” Miller said.
Miller said it was also helpful in becoming friends because they didn’t swim in the same events, so there was no competitive aspect to anything.
When they both were freshmen, Howell said they would always talk and hang out, even though they didn’t actually live together.
“I was very intimidated by her (at first) because I knew she was really fast, but immediately after that, we clicked,” Howell said. “She literally told me, ‘We are going to be best friends.’”
Growing closer and closer
The more they got to know each other, the closer Howell and Miller grew as friends.
Miller said last year she was going through a tough time with a friend back home and Howell was there for her through everything.
“It was a really, really hard time for me,” Miller said. “She is a really, really sweet girl. Whenever I was upset, I would go to her room and she would comfort me. She was a really great friend to have through that time.”
Howell said the reason they clicked so fast as friends is because they are both introverts and that allowed them to relate with each other well.
“We always hang out,” Howell said. “Never really in big groups, so I think that is how we grew closer.”
Miller described both of their personalities as “go with the flow kind of people.”
“Neither of us are like, ‘Oh, I want to go out on the weekend and do this. I want to go to Bass Pro or I want to go hiking,’” Miller said. “We are pretty much going with the flow. Just kind of chill and hang out.
“I think that is why we get along because we do whatever. We both have boyfriends this year and we both hang out with them. We understand that and make time for everything.”
Howell said swimming has had a tremendous amount of impact on their friendship.
“I think it has drawn us closer,” Howell said. “It has also given us competition, too. It is a healthy competition. In practices, we would swim in the same lane and just enjoy the time we have even in the hard practices.”
Thriving on the swim team
Coming in as freshmen at Missouri State in 2017, Howell and Miller immediately made an impact on the swimming and diving team.
Howell earned gold medals in the 200-meter freestyle along with the 500 and 1,650 en route to being named the MVC Women’s Freshman of the Year. She accumulated six gold medals during the conference championship.
Miller finished an impressive freshman season, earning six gold medals as well. She won the 50 and 100 freestyle in individuals.
“It is kind of unique to get to lean on your freshmen as much as we did last year,” Collins said. “It was neat to watch. I think they feed off each other. They’re not really competitors because they don’t swim the same events, but they really complement each other.”
Championships coming up
As they prepare for their second MVC championship, Miller and Howell said some things have set them back as sophomores.
For Miller, she fought through an illness. Howell dealt with a personal issue that she described as hard.
“Coming back from that in the dual meets, we have done well,” Miller said.
However, both credited their success this season to knowing more of what to expect in their second seasons at Missouri State.
“I think this year we really honed in on the details, and we are trying to make everything perfect for the conference,” Miller said.
Both are excited for the conference championships coming up from Feb. 20-23.
“I’m trying not to jinx myself or think too much about it,” Howell said. “If I don’t do as well as I did last year, I’m still going to be happy with myself and proud of the work I have been putting in the pool this year.”
Miller said she is expecting the team to do well and place higher in individual events than what they are seeded.
“That is the only way we are going to be able to get a conference championship this year,” Miller said. “I think that is what we are going to be able to do.”
As for both of their careers going forward, Collins said Howell and Miller can’t do much better than what they achieved as freshmen already, and the future is bright for the women’s swimming and diving team.
“My expectation for them is to grow as leaders and to continue to find ways to contribute to our team outside of just their points,” Collins said. “That will be the challenge we have for them. They are phenomenal swimmers. They are very talented and big-time point scorers for us.
“Now, what can they do beyond that? That is where their leadership and what they can bring out of their teammates moving forward is going to be what they can really cement as their legacy here at Missouri State.”