From pole vaulting to speaking Norwegian, Ariana Miles does it all

| Senior Sports Editor
A soccer player in a white jersey extends her right foot back to kick the ball as she stands with her left arm back and her right arm forward. A player in a dark jersey approaches from her back left side.

Ariana Miles in a playoff game against Adrian College in November 2019. (Photo by Matthew Friedman | Student Life)

The No. 3 Washington University women’s soccer team has yet to lose a game this season, and their attack is a major reason why. The Bears have dominated the ball in nearly every matchup and have outshot their opponents every time they have taken the field. Senior Ariana Miles has played a pivotal role in that scheme; the midfielder ranks second on the team in points (goals doubled plus assists) with eight this season, and she is primed to lead the team’s attack as the season takes its first turn into University Athletic Association competition. 

As she and the team prepare to face off against University of Rochester this weekend, Miles sat down with Student Life to talk about her soccer, favorite food spots and hidden talents. 

This interview has been edited slightly for length and clarity

Student Life: I guess we can start before you got to WashU. Do you have a particular memory of your first time playing soccer?”

Ariana Miles: It started way before high school, but the biggest memory is probably in high school, that switch flipped where I was like ‘wow like I could go to college with this.’ I really enjoy the athletic part of it but also the social atmosphere and the people that I learned from and everything that comes along with it for me. I feel like you learn a lot besides actually kicking a ball into a net. Yeah, I guess I kind of fell in love with it when I was really young and I just kept playing it and here we are!

SL: I feel like that’s how it always goes with the sports you love. Did you play any other sports in high school?

AM: I ran track — I ran the 400m, 4x100m, 200m, and pole vaulted. 

SL: Wait, you pole vaulted?

AM: I did! I loved it, I thought it was awesome. I feel like I used to watch it and I was like ‘how does this work?’ and then they just put a stick in my hand one day and then I just did it. Honestly the only reason I kept running was because of pole vault. 

SL: I could never get my head around it, that’s crazy. Anyway, you grew up in LA, so was it basically just sunshine 24/7 and out on the field, all the time?

AM: Yeah, the weather was great, I lived very far from my high school so I would spend a lot of time in the car driving out to school because it was 45 minutes away, and then a soccer practice was an hour and then driving home at 9:45 at night. But I guess the weather at that point was a good factor because I rarely ran into snow or anything at all. So, yeah, kind of played to my advantage.

SL: It must’ve been a shock coming to St. Louis then. 

AM:  Definitely, yeah. I think it’s kind of the inconsistency that gets me — you have no idea what you’re going to get. I looked at the weather this morning and it said 63 and I’m like, ‘oh, it’s probably kind of chilly out,’ and now I’m dying in a thick sweater. 

SL: Were there any other big culture shocks coming from the West Coast besides the weather? 

AM: The pace. In LA, everyone is kind of there for themselves, I feel like it’s a rat race. Here people are kind of calm, people are slower, not as much traffic, not as many people like on the road trying to get places. So I think, culturally, it’s a bit more laid back, and I feel like people enjoy the moment here more than LA. 

SL: So let’s talk about the team a bit — the summer was kind of chaotic because [former head coach Jim] Conlon left and then there was this whole flux period where you guys didn’t really know what was happening because Coach Gabbert came in really late. What was that like?

AM: It was pretty overwhelming at first, obviously, it came quite the shock with Conlon leaving. I think that we all thought that he was going to retire here, but at the end of the day things happen. And then coach Gabbert came in, and it was really about scheduling what pre-season was gonna look like. It was interesting because it went from the focus being soccer and prepping over the summer to, as a senior class, we had this shift to logistics: When are we practicing, where are we practicing, how are we going to games, where’s our flight information for the season, etc. I think that it’s been a balance of bringing in the new freshmen and stuff but also taking on a very different leadership role than just on the field. 

SL: It’s kind of an especially tough position for you all because you jumped from sophomore to senior year and you’re suddenly pushed into these leadership roles.

AM: Exactly. I think that junior year is a really fundamental leadership building year because you’ve been here for two years and now you’re getting the swing of things, and then it’s like, “Okay, now that I’ve figured out the soccer piece, how can I lead?” I think you can see it, but I think that we have a very special class, so you’re able to kind of work through that together and like figure it out.

SL: Well it’s worked out well so far for sure. Watching the team play this season has been really fun, you all just rip off shots. You have the shots and you just take them.

AM: Definitely, we appreciate that. I mean it’s definitely a work in progress every day but we do what we can. We show up, play some soccer and then go from there.

SL: It’s been two years since you guys played. Have there been any traditions that you guys tried to maintain and any that you lost in the gap?

AM: Yeah, for sure it’s both ways. Our pregame routine has stayed the same, we still do pregame speeches. We try to continue those traditions because I think that it makes our program special and brings in the freshmen, so trying to maintain that even though there’s a change in leadership as a whole. So yeah, definitely keeping some things but it was kind of a fun opportunity because we can kind of tweak it where we want, like, make it what we want it to be. I haven’t done a speech yet this season so pressure’s on. 

SL: So when you’re not playing, studying and training, what do you like to do with that very limited free time?

AM: In the limited free time that I do have, I’m hanging out with friends, I call my parents when I have the time to, I love just going to Forest Park and picnicking or just hanging out. I’ve also really gotten into going on walks. And also going to eat food. 

SL: Where’s your go-to place to eat these days?

AM: Taco Buddha right now is definitely my top spot. Their frozen margs are delicious and their tacos are incredible, I highly recommend it. 

SL: I’ve never gone but that’s a pretty good sell, I’ll have to check it out. What’s something about you that maybe your teammates wouldn’t know?

AM: I think that I’ve probably mentioned this to them before, but my mom is from Norway, and Norway, I see it as my second home. So maybe that’s like one part that they don’t realize it’s like a very major part of me. When I was younger, I’d go back every summer, and I lived there in first grade. It’s also technically my first language. 

SL: Can you speak Norwegian?

AM: I can! 

SL: Can you give us a soundbyte?

AM: Hei, jeg heter Ariana Miles, jeg spiller fotball, jeg elsker Student magazine (Hi, my name is Ariana Miles, I play soccer, and I love Student Life newspaper!)

SL: Okay so that should definitely always be your fun fact. One final question: Would you rather adopt a child every time you hear “Bohemian Rhapsody” or have fish for hands?

AM: Oh God, I guess adopt a child every time I hear “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I can just make a little soccer team of my own.


Meet more WashU stars through our athlete of the week feature:

Why Sergio Rivas, who leads men’s soccer with four goals in three games, says he peaked in middle school

Exploding Kittens and coffee: One receiver’s strong start with the Bears

How men’s tennis player Scott Altmeyer balances his undefeated singles season and grad school

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