THE GRIND: South Forsyth’s Millie Bergey reflects on downs, ups of decorated career
There were two sides to Millie Bergey’s freshman year at South Forsyth. There was the initially resistant runner whose mother had to get her out of bed and force her out of the car when they got to the school for the first summer cross country practice.
There was also a talented, carefree runner, one unburdened by the painful realities of races and the expectations that would come with being one of the fastest runners in the state.
Bergey is still just that – one of the state’s best and most versatile distance runners. But the mental and physical ground that she’s covered from then until now, her senior season, has given Bergey a new perspective on this year’s successes.
“As a senior I’ve been like, ‘Okay, I need to appreciate this more, too, just because it’s my last year,’” she said.
As a freshman, Bergey was almost immediately one of South’s top runners. In cross country, she finished second at the region championships and 11th in the state meet. During the track season, Bergey saw a chance to make the state meet in the 3,200 meters, and former War Eagles star Savannah Carnahan helped her get there.
But as her career progressed, nervousness and anxiety started to influence Bergey’s performance. Leading up to the state cross country meet her sophomore year, Bergey was focused on getting the top-10 finish that she narrowly missed as a freshman. Her nerves made it so that she barely ate before she ran, and the ensuing physical weakness contributed to a 24th-place finish.
The anxiety didn’t go away during the track season. Bergey would be consumed with nervousness before races, and while the feeling went away after the gun went off, she would fret after she finished, wondering if she could have pushed harder or what she could have done if not for the nerves.
Bergey ran the 1,600 meters in 5:25 as a freshman, but that time showed slow improvement over the next two years, only dropping to 5:20 by her junior year. Her worrying started to affect her enjoyment of the sport, even though Bergey, an introspective person by nature, couldn’t pinpoint why.
“I don’t really know what I’m afraid of during (races),” she said.
Bergey has gotten help, though. She goes to coach Nick Wansley for advice and encouragement, and before races, she’ll go through breathing exercises and pray to calm herself down.
By almost all measures, Bergey’s senior year has been her best yet. She got her top-10 finish in the state cross country meet – finishing ninth – and helped the War Eagles to the team title. She has dropped her time in the 1,600 all the way down to 5:08, and her contributions in that race, the 800 and the 4×400 meter relay helped the South girls to the Region 5-7A team championship. In February, she signed to run at the University of Georgia.
And, most importantly, Bergey is enjoying all of it, conscious of what running has meant to her and of the work that it took her to get to this point.
“I don’t think I deserved it freshman year,” Bergey said of her success back then. “I wouldn’t have appreciated it as much.”