Gazette Peak Performer of the Week: Maria Mettler, Air Academy track

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Photo - Air Academy track athlete Maria Mettler is the Gazette's Peak Performer of the Week. She was photographed in Garden of the Gods Monday, May 22, 2017. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Air Academy track athlete Maria Mettler is the Gazette's Peak Performer of the Week. She was photographed in Garden of the Gods Monday, May 22, 2017. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

In her future years as a cadet at the Air Force Academy, Maria Mettler inevitably will find herself faced with adversity and have her will tested in times of great duress.

She's already well on her way to success in those scenarios, and she's barely out of high school.

Mettler, who walked across the stage to receive her diploma from Air Academy on Thursday, battled through an oncoming cold through the compressed, two-day state meet in Lakewood over the weekend. She still managed to win two races, finish runner-up in another and help Air Academy to the program's first track and field state title.

"It was more mental, because no one likes to run when they're sick," Mettler said. "I just had to do the best I could do and race for my team. This year, my mind has gotten stronger. Running at state not feeling 100 percent taught me not to look at the negatives. You can't control the weather or sickness. You just control what you can control and do your best and whatever happens, happens."

The meet, normally held over three days, was pushed back two days because of snowy weather in the Denver area and held over a two-day span by eliminating preliminaries.

On Saturday, Mettler gave the Kadets 10 points by winning the 3,200 meters and later helped the 3,200 relay to a fourth-place finish. The next day, she claimed the title in the 800 before taking her turn in the 1,600 late with Air Academy trying to hold off Niwot for the team crown.

"At the end, I told her that we needed six points for the win," Kadets coach Chuck Schwartz said. "Six points would put us up by 11, so mathematically, there was no way Niwot could beat us. Well, Maria finished second and got us eight points, which is kind of what she's all about. She always gives us more than what's required of her. She sucked it up for the team and ran four races not feeling anywhere close to 100 percent."

Before moving to Colorado prior to her junior year, Mettler spent the majority of her time playing soccer. Track was a distant second, and cross country wasn't on her radar.

Early that year, Mettler found herself craving cross country, having joined the team at Air Academy after her father lost his job in Reno, Nev., but found a new opportunity as general manager of a fitness center in Colorado Springs.

She helped the Kadets, behind leadership of Katie Rainsberger and Kayla Wiitala, to the program's first cross country title in 2016.

Now in that leadership role as a senior, Mettler took charge by crossing the finish line first at the 4A state cross country meet last fall.

She kept it going in track season and created memories for a lifetime by celebrating on the top step of the podium Sunday. And because of the two-day weather delay, she also got to participate in graduation, something she would have missed had the weather cooperated.

"I was going to not walk and run at state," Mettler said. "I'm glad I was able to do both."