It’s an hour before Dustin Mettler’s next race. Like countless times before, he gets away from the crowd to run for 20 minutes by himself, performs a set of warm up drills and swaps out his pregame wardrobe for his uniform.
As he approaches the starting line, he knows no competition should be overlooked and prepares to block out the rest of the world.
For now, all that awaits is the thrill of the run.
“When running, it’s a feeling you can’t describe. It’s one of those moments where nothing else matters but what is right in front of you,” Mettler said. “In a way, it’s a chance to escape from reality.”
Since joining the cross-country team in seventh grade, the 23-year old former Duncan star has fallen in love with that feeling. Countless 5K runs, statewide success in high school and the opportunity to face top collegiate competition highlight Mettler’s resume, and he has no plans to stop any time soon.
While running for Duncan, Mettler became a competitor nobody wanted to share the lanes with. The 2008 graduate placed fourth at the Class 4A State Meet in cross-country and triple medaled at state in track, winning the 800, 1600 and 3200 meter runs his senior year.
“State was such a great experience because I got that feeling you always get when you accomplish something,” Mettler said. “That has to be one of my favorite memories.”
But competing at the high school level wasn’t enough for Mettler. After running for two years at Cowley County Community College in Kansas, he moved on to the Division I level, running for Arkansas-Little Rock in the Sun Belt Conference. Mettler was a two-time All-Conference runner and helped the Trojans claim a conference title in his junior season.
Mettler said he always felt prepared to run again Division I competition, but his time at Cowley helped him in a different way.
“I would say it wasn’t as helpful competitive wise as it was academic,” Mettler said. “It gave me the chance to get used to managing my time while running on the collegiate level.”
With school now behind him, Mettler still finds ways to immerse himself in as many races as possible. He’s run in 5Ks since he was a sophomore in high school, so many that he no longer knows the amount.
He said he’s certain the number is greater than 100.
“It’s been so long since I began and I’ve been in so many, it’s hard to remember all of them,” Mettler said. “I’m going to keep running in them as long as I can.
Those who run in the local races know Dustin Mettler’s name. He comfortably won the fourth annual Founder’s Day 5K Run last month and teamed up with Duncan’s Gary Ferguson to win a duathlon last weekend. In each 3K leg of that race, Mettler finished in record time.
Mettler just graduated from UALR in May after studying criminal justice with a minor in health/exercise science. In the years to come, he hopes to spend his time on the same track where he built a legacy as one of the Demons’ best here in Duncan.
“I told myself I wanted to become a track coach when I was in college, I want to teach and coach track in Duncan,” Mettler said. “It’s a way for me to give back to this community and help teach kids about the sport.”
Mettler will work as an assistant coach for the Demons in this upcoming season.
“The thing I’ve learned about running over the years is that, like any other sport, it takes a great amount of preparation,” Mettler said. “And no matter who you’re up against, you can’t ever underestimate the competition.”