National Signing Day most often comes and goes at Edgemont High School with little fanfare. For the first time in a long time, the Panthers had a chance to celebrate one of their own.
On Wednesday, Nov. 13, senior Theresa Milio signed her Division I Letter of Intent to swim at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. A group that included family, coaches, teammates, friends and school staff crammed into the team room to celebrate Milio.
“This is a really great occasion for the athletic department, but also for Theresa,” athletic director Anthony DeRosa said at the ceremony. “We don’t really have too many kids that get an opportunity to continue competing at the Division I level, so this is an amazing accomplishment by you. It’s very well-deserved and I’m glad you can share it with so many of your friends, family, trainers and your school family, as well.”
The signing carries many sacrifices, the first of which comes in the form of missing her high school graduation. Midshipmen must report June 25 — swimmers a day early — to get a taste of preseason and start military training prior to getting started with a more typical college setting come September, so Milio won’t be able to walk with her classmates.
After graduation, Milio will serve five years in the Navy.
“I actually visited Navy three times,” Milio said. “It’s such a big commitment, so I really wanted to make sure I liked what I was getting into. It’s definitely different, but it’s something I’m willing to do.”
Milio finds herself a mix of excited and nervous for what lies ahead.
“I’m excited for DI swimming,” she said. “The girls on the team are really nice and I got along well with them when I visited. And the coaches are amazing, so I think they’ll help me improve a lot.
“I’m nervous for the military aspect because it’s just different from anything I’ve ever done. I’m excited because it will challenge me.”
With Veterans Day this week, Milio was already thinking beyond states to her future, knowing that some day she’ll look at the military holidays with a greater personal connection.
“We don’t have a history of service in our family, but as I was thinking about it I thought this would set me up for life the best and it would be a really cool experience I can’t get anywhere else,” Milio said. “I thought I would take this opportunity.”
Norma Milio paid close attention to the recruiting process and was thrilled to see her daughter choose Annapolis over other finalists Yale and Rice.
“Something somebody had told me when we went on one of these recruiting trips to Navy was that it takes a certain kind of person to pick Navy because it’s hard enough playing at a Division I school and then you take into account how hard the academics are at Navy and then she’s going to have her military obligations,” Mom said. “With the three of those combined and for Theresa to realize that and take a chance on something she is so unfamiliar with…” Sleepy Hollow/Hastings/Edgemont/Irvington coach Tobey Saracino cut her off and said, “I have to say, if anyone can do it, your daughter will. She’s one of the toughest kids I know.”
Milio appreciated her mom’s support during and after the process. Not once did her mother push her own agenda and the tears of joy afterward were genuine.
“After I committed, she was like, ‘Good, that’s my favorite place you were looking at,’” Milio said. “She didn’t want to pressure me into anything, so she didn't say anything before. She was very happy, but I can obviously see as a parent how it’s scary to have me going into the military, but she’s been very supportive and I think she’s excited for me.”
Saracino had an extra appreciation for Milio’s bold decision. Saracino’s dad was in the Navy, serving on the U.S. Nashville, so she called him up looking for words of wisdom to share with Milio.
“He said, ‘Pay attention.’ I said, ‘Pay attention?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I almost died a couple of times on the boat because I wasn’t paying attention,’” Saracino said. “That’s his original and then he said to play golf because you’ll get to see the world at every port if you actually get off the base. Those are your two pieces of advice.
“My advice is swim hard and don’t forget about your studies, because those are important, too.”
In the water for SHEDI, Milio, who swims year-round for the New York Sharks in Rockland, has been one of the team’s top competitors and leaders, swimming from seventh through ninth grade and junior and senior year for the combined team. Milio helped SHEDI win back-to-back Section 1 team titles last year and this year, was part of the team’s All-American state title 200 freestyle relay last year (with teammates Mikayla Klein, Kate Hoesterey and Ava Franks), won two Section 1 relay titles this year and this weekend will look to help the team win another relay title and perhaps the team state title after falling just three points shy last fall.
“I’m excited for it,” Milio said. “I think we can do pretty well this year. It’s nice senior year that there’s a lot less pressure, especially now that I’ve committed. I’m just excited to have fun with SHEDI while we’re there.”