East Ridge's Thomas Miles earns Jake Anderson Mr. Goalie award
It was a surreal moment for Thomas Miles.
The senior goalie at East Ridge heard his name get called as he was announced Jake Anderson Mr. Goalie of the Year.
It had been a dream since he moved to Woodbury to be a part of the great names that received this award before him. Miles looked up to these individual players because he knew the hard work and dedication it took to earn this type of award.
Once he moved to the Woodbury area, he focused on lacrosse year round, and it's been a part of his life now and forever.
"Once I picked up that lacrosse stick, I fell in love with the game," Miles said. "I wanted to play it all the time."
Even though Miles is a senior now and heading off to college next fall, his lacrosse story begins in Charlottesville, Va., as a first grader. Miles enjoyed playing hockey and always had a stick in his hands. Then his neighbor introduced him to lacrosse.
He switched from a hockey stick to a lacrosse stick and Miles enjoyed everything about lacrosse. The pace of the game, the physicality of the game and his competitive instincts kicked in knowing lacrosse was the sport for him.
Miles moved to Woodbury in fourth grade and started playing in the youth leagues around the area including the Woodbury Athletic Association.
"I always think it's funny how I started in Virginia with hockey which isn't a popular sport over there," Miles joked. "Then I moved to Minnesota where hockey is one of the biggest sports and I switch to lacrosse."
Once Miles reached fifth grade, he started playing goalie more frequently. He would continue to learn the other positions of the game from his coaches, but he kept running back to the net.
He wasn't sure why goalie became his position at first, but after a while he realized some of the duties as a goalie.
"The goalie position has more of a leadership role and I've always enjoyed being in a leadership role throughout my life," Miles said. "I had a great feeling when I stopped someone from scoring and helping my team in that particular way."
Lacrosse became Miles' love and passion during his middle school years and it became more prevalent when he played on Team Minnesota starting his seventh grade year. Every year, Miles said he would progress with his skills and his lacrosse IQ.
That progression is due to the expertise of the coaching staff and playing the best players in the country at his age level. His friendships started developing more and more, especially with his teammate Jack Mohler.
Miles made the varsity team at East Ridge during his eighth grade year. He didn't play at all, but he started realizing that he belonged on the team and in this community.
Mohler and Miles became best friends and knew that once they reached high school, East Ridge would have a good team for future years to come.
That mindset shifted when Miles learned he would be moving once again for his freshman year of high school. His family moved to Georgia as his father was transferred for his job.
"It was pretty hard for me to move to Georgia," Miles said. "We moved quite a bit when I was younger, but once I lived in Woodbury I started making friends and playing on sports teams. It was tough leaving my friends in Minnesota."
When Miles moved to Georgia, one of the coaches on Team Minnesota told his high school coach in Georgia about who Miles was and the skills he had as a goalie. When he came to his new high school, the coach already had a reputation in his mind and Miles wanted to make sure he achieved those expectations.
He started as the goalie during his freshman year, but it was a different experience for Miles. He enjoyed it, but he wanted to return to Woodbury.
His wish came true after a year in Georgia as his father was transferred back to Minnesota. Before going back to East Ridge, Miles had to make a big decision.
Miles could have gone anywhere when he moved back for his sophomore season including private schools like Cretin-Derham Hall, St. Thomas Academy or Hill-Murray. He never even considered any other school than East Ridge, because that's where his friends were and that's where his dreams were for his high school career.
Mohler and Miles were discussing the possibilities of what East Ridge could do when those two were juniors and seniors. It made the two of them excited about the opportunity and Miles wanted to come back and finish what they started.
"Coming back to East Ridge felt like home and I knew I wasn't going to play a lot with Peyton as goalie for the team," Miles said. "I might not have played a lot, but I learned so much from Peyton as the backup and it helped me when he graduated and I had to take the starting position."
Peyton Bixby was the goalie for East Ridge during Miles' sophomore and junior years. Once Bixby graduated, Miles started every game his senior year.
Miles also played in the middle of his junior season because Bixby was injured throughout the regular season. During that time, Bixby kept pushing Miles and giving him confidence that he could be the best goalie in the state if he kept his mind focused on the goals at hand.
While Miles was learning from Bixby his sophomore year, he had other aspects of his life floating around him constantly. The biggest issue was forming his friendships again after being gone his entire freshman year.
It was a tough transition as there were a mixture of feeling at home and also feeling like the new kid.
"It took some time to feel comfortable again after leaving for that year," Miles said. "Lacrosse was always there for me and I was excited to see the guys I played with during middle school participate at practices for East Ridge during my sophomore year. That family feeling was back."
During this past season, Miles' senior year, the seniors were focused on not losing another section final game after losing to Eagan in the section finals during the 2018 season. Mohler and Miles knew they had the team to win the section finals this year, but Miles said the credit goes to St. Thomas Academy for playing a tough game and winning the section tournament this season.
It wasn't the way Miles wanted to leave his legacy at East Ridge, but his career wasn't fully over after the loss. Mohler and Miles each received nominations as finalists for Mr. Lacrosse and Jake Anderson Mr. Goalie award.
"It was really special to get that nomination together," Miles said. "Jack and I have done a lot together and being able to share that moment together was something we both will remember forever."
Once Miles' name was called for the award, he couldn't stop smiling because this had been a goal of his since coming to Minnesota and especially during his senior season. He knew this award was not earned alone and it came with the help of his teammates from, first grade and on.
It also came from his family that supported him through every aspect of the game and his life. Finally, it came from coaches that guided him the right way to a successful career during his childhood. The coaches from Team Minnesota that built his IQ to East Ridge head coach Steve Van Sloun that continued to push him to play his best.
A special thanks from Miles went to Jack Beran, who was an assistant coach for East Ridge boys' lacrosse this season. Beran was the 2017 recipient of the Mr. Goalie award and came to East Ridge to perfect Miles' craft.
Now, Miles will continue playing lacrosse in college as he attends Milwaukee School of Engineering to study mechanical engineering. He's always wanted to study engineering and he believes this is the perfect place to do both of his passions.
Engineering and lacrosse.
"I'm excited to continue playing lacrosse in college and study a subject I'm very passionate about both at the same time," Miles said. "As for this year, it's been a dream come true for me. I know we wanted to make it further as a team, but receiving that award has been something I've been dreaming of since I was a little kid.
"I know many of the players are graduating this year, but I'm confident this East Ridge team will be back once again next year and for future years to come. This is a great program to be a part of and I'm proud to be a Raptor."