by Josh Vardaman, MT Athletic Communications
Sometimes when a student-athlete steps onto his or her college campus for the first time, greatness is immediately evident.
Both in and out of competition, those who have that special something are able to be leaders and star in seemingly everything they do.
Such was the case in 2001 when a teenager from Dallas named Laura Miguez arrived at Middle Tennessee.
From her first time stepping onto the Dean A. Hayes Soccer & Track Stadium turf, Miguez, who’s now Laura Miguez-Howarth, displayed that star quality both on the field and off it. Now, with her induction this year into the Blue Raiders Sports Hall of Fame, that greatness will forever be enshrined.
“I just really loved the game of soccer and loved competing,” she said. “[The induction] will be a great time reflecting on the people and kind of the pieces of Middle Tennessee that I still take with me.”
Middle Tennessee’s soccer program, which had its first season in 1996, was really still in its infant stages when Miguez-Howarth got to Murfreesboro in 2001.
It’s fair to say she forced it to grow up in a hurry.
After starting 18 of the team’s 19 games at midfield and forward and leading the way in assists with eight in her freshman season, Miguez-Howarth helped the team reach new heights in the years following.
Current head coach Aston Rhoden arrived in 2002, and with Miguez-Howarth leading the way, the Blue Raiders kept getting better until it all came together in 2004. They were co-Sun Belt Conference regular-season champions for the first time with a 6-1-1 league record and advanced past the first round of the conference tournament for the second year in a row, losing in the next game to FIU in penalty kicks.
Miguez-Howarth finished her senior season in 2004 tied for the team lead with nine assists, and she was nominated for All-Sun Belt for the third time. On the stat sheet, she was at the time the program’s all-time leader in points (87), goals (28) and assists (31), and still owns the assists record while being in the top 10 of 10 different career categories.
A year after her playing days were over, she was also named to the All-Time Sun Belt Soccer Team in 2005.
“I think most of my memories revolve around some of the big wins we had [in 2004],” Miguez-Howarth said. “I remember beating WKU … and beyond that, we had so many silly stories from tournaments and travel weekends and things like that.”
Maybe more important than the records Miguez-Howarth set on the field during her time in the blue and white was her performance in the classroom. She was on the Sun Belt Academic Honor Roll in 2002, 2003 and 2004, receiving a bachelor’s degree in 2005 in communications and Spanish and a master’s degree in 2008 in Spanish language teaching.
She’s made it her life mission to help other students be successful in the classroom like she was.
Once she finished her second degree, Miguez-Howarth became a teacher in 2008 at KIPP Academy Nashville, a national network of college-preparatory, public charter schools.
She quickly rose through the ranks, becoming dean of students and then a school leader before taking over as head of schools in 2017. Then, after almost a year in that role in Nashville, Miguez-Howarth returned home to the Dallas area to take over as head of schools for KIPP Texas Public Schools.
Along her career path, she’s stayed true to some of the lessons she learned on the pitch at Middle Tennessee.
“Those are some of the first memories that I have of life lessons that I’ve taken with me … to have an impact beyond myself and to be a footprint on the world, my community and in my city,” Miguez-Howarth said. “I think some of those roots definitely started while I was a student at MT.”
It’s clear to see the greatness Howarth showed in her first few days on MT’s campus in 2001 has never wavered, though she isn’t on the soccer pitch as much anymore.
With her induction this year into the Blue Raiders Sports Hall of Fame, that greatness will now be remembered forever.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” Miguez-Howarth said.