Breaking through: Former bench player becomes key defender for East

As Landon Miles progressed through youth soccer, he wasn’t much more than a bench player.

His first two years at Columbus East, he was a junior varsity player.

Last year, Miles broke through to see some significant varsity action and was a part-time starter for a sectional championship team. Now as a senior, he figures to play a large role for a team that hopes to defend its Hoosier Hills Conference and sectional titles.

“I always tried to work as hard as I could, but I wasn’t as technical or as skilled as the other players on the team,” Miles said. “Then I worked over the summers and became a better defender.”

Miles began playing Parks and Rec at age 6, and joined the Columbus Express Soccer Club at age 11. But he was mostly a B-team player.

Once he entered high school, Miles came to East’s summer practices and worked with Express coach Doug Bruce. He also worked with Olympians strength and conditioning coach Adam Zollman.

“I got faster, and my athletic ability is a lot better than my technical ability, so I used that,” Miles said. “Then my technical ability got better as everything else got better.”

East coach Brad Barber noticed that.

“He’s one of our quickest, most athletic players on the pitch,” Barber said. “But he has worked tirelessly to improve his technical ability. To have the ability to play someone of his skill level at an outside back is a big asset to our team.”

Miles also wrestled his first two years of high school, but had to give up that sport last year to get a job. While he says wrestling is the hardest sport he’s ever done, he said it helped him become a better soccer player.

Last season, Miles earned a spot on the varsity. By midseason, he was in the starting lineup.

“It felt good being moved up to varsity after being JV,” Miles said. “I didn’t think I was going to get much playing time, but I knew I would train with the varsity, and then a spot opened up.”

This season, Miles is one of four returning starters for the Olympians, who scrimmage Saturday morning at Batesville and open the season Monday at home against Floyd Central.

“His improvement and growth mindset has allowed him to earn a spot on our varsity team,” Barber said. “He is, I believe, one of the best outside backs in our area.”

Landon Miles

Name: Landon Miles

School: Columbus East

Year: Senior

Sport: Soccer

Position: Outside back

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.