The Gazette Girls' Track and Field Peak Performer: Maria Mettler, Air Academy

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Photo - Air Academy track athlete Maria Mettler is the Gazette's Peak Performer of the Year. She was photographed at Colorado College's Washburn Field Friday, June 9, 2017. Photo by James Wooldridge, The Gazette
Air Academy track athlete Maria Mettler is the Gazette's Peak Performer of the Year. She was photographed at Colorado College's Washburn Field Friday, June 9, 2017. Photo by James Wooldridge, The Gazette

The Air Academy girls' track and field team was an underdog heading into the 4A state meet.

Niwot's team had six first-place finishes during the season and were favorites to win the state championship.

But the Kadets had Maria Mettler.

Her performance helped lead Air Academy to the 4A state championship, and earned her The Gazette's girls' track and field Peak Performer of the Year.

The senior distance runner had already won the 2016 state championship in cross country, and she had set her focus on the 3,200 as her next conquest.

"For me, over the summer last year I trained really hard, so my goal was to do really well in cross country," Mettler said. "... So I really just wanted to continue that success. And I had did have an idea, like I wanted to win the 3200 state title, because I love the 3200. I love long distances."

Mettler reached her goal, winning the 3,200 by nearly 10 seconds. She wasn't done. Mettler won the 800, finished second in the 1,600 and helped her 4x800 team finish fourth. Overall she played a part in 34 points for Air Academy.

The Kadets had relied heavily on Mettler, but she didn't mind.

"I wanted to be a leader, but I didn't feel any unnecessary pressure," Mettler said. "I just wanted to perform well for myself, and I knew what I was capable of, and I wanted to achieve my goals. But I didn't feel any pressure on me, but I did want to lead my team and be a good example. So by doing my best for myself I felt like I could do that."

The commitment that aided in Mettler's success isn't just on the track. It also shows itself in her eating and sleeping habits at home.

They are habits that were instilled in her at a young age by her mother - a runner in her own right - and Mettler maintains them to this day.

"(My family) all eats pretty healthy, and getting enough sleep is the main thing," Mettler said. "That's kind of hard with school sometimes - you'll have late nights. But when you can get to bed early, that's the main thing. You have to go to bed and get enough sleep."

All of this - Mettler's training, health habits, leadership and natural skill - makes for an impressive athlete. It's the type of athlete that isn't easy to replace, which is why coach Chuck Schwartz has tried to build a program in which the upperclassmen, like Mettler, mentor the underclassmen to better prepare them for being successful in the future.

That atmosphere has left it's mark on Mettler.

"It's really important," Mettler said. "When you're running and you're just getting into it, and you're like a freshman or sophomore and you're young doing it, it's sometimes easy to lose the fun in it. Running is a really hard sport - racing and training - it's a really hard sport to find the joy in it. So for me, like showing them, 'Hey, you can find the fun in doing good in workouts,' it's just something that I enjoy. And I think when I portray that, it really affects the younger runners."

Schwartz hopes this will help to ease the loss of Mettler, but he knows that's a tall task for any program.

Perhaps he put it most appropriately when discussing his senior.

"It's impossible to replace a leader like Maria."