March 09, 2014

My Championship Experience – 2014 Men’s Indoor Track and Field Edition

My Championship Experience is a diary blog written by Summit League student-athletes detailing their experiences at each of the 19 Championships.

South Dakota senior Jeff Mettler writes about his experience at the 2014 Summit League Indoor Track and Field Championships:

Wednesday, Feb. 26:
The trip to Fort Wayne began not so bright and early at 6:00 a.m. Riding a bus across three states may sound horrible to most people, but after the nightmare that was our flying experience this fall on the way to Fort Wayne for The Summit League Cross Country meet, I was okay with it. One broken bus window and several stops later, we arrived at our hotel in Fort Wayne at 11:00 p.m., slightly exhausted but no worse for the wear.  

Thursday, Feb. 27:
The day before the meet starts is always tough for me. Too nervous to concentrate on homework, I spent the morning trying to find anything to distract me, with minimal success. Needless to say, our pre-meet workout in the afternoon came as a huge relief. After arriving at the track, the distance team did a short shakeup outside. Following the directions of the extremely helpful IPFW coach, we found a great trail that ran around the campus. We then did some strides to get our fast-twitch muscles firing and get accustomed to the track. The other training groups did their own pre-meet rituals, and we all headed back to the hotel for dinner. Later that night, the men’s team met to discuss the upcoming meet. After explaining various logistical details of the meet, such as bus shuttles and event times, we went around the room and each expressed our personal goals for the weekend. I really like this tradition. Throughout the season, the different training groups kind of do their own thing for the most part, but the conference meet is different. As individually-focused as track & field can sometimes be, I think it speaks volumes how much everyone on our team loves coming together at the conference meet. Hearing everyone vocalize their goals for the weekend is a great way to touch base with all the groups, and for me it is when the conference weekend really starts. Typically during these things I keep it simple, and this time was no different. I expressed my desire to finish where I came in ranked. That will be a challenge, as I came in ranked first in the 3k, mile, and 5k. It is a triple I have done several times, and it is never easy. Overall, the attitude of the team was excited. We knew it is going to be a battle with NDSU, and we had a few athletes who were battling through some adversity, but never before has the team been so collectively focused.

Friday, Feb. 28:
Since I did not run the 3k until 6:20 p.m., I got to sit around watching the live results on my computer. When I finally got to compete, a huge weight lifted off my chest as I was able to repeat as the league champion in the 3k. Of course, that feeling lasted maybe 15 minutes, as it soon dawned on me that the hardest was yet to come. However, the race could not have gone much better for me and my legs still felt relatively fresh, and for that, I was very happy. After cooling down and going back to the hotel to shower and eat, we again met as a team. The day had gone well; we had managed to score 68 points. However, NDSU was right there with us at 65, just like we knew they would be. We covered the events of the day, highlighted by some phenomenal performances by our weight thrower, Denton Stephens, and the anchor of our DMR, Stephen Nielson. Both stepped up huge, which is so exciting when it happens at the league meet and is really inspiring to the rest of the team. Then, the floor was given over to the captains, and as one of the captains, I was asked to say a little something. After describing the feeling that came from finishing just one point shy of the league championship this fall at The Summit League Cross Country meet, I asked that each person do everything in their power to keep that from happening again. It was not a feeling I wanted to experience again. After all, it would be a VERY long bus ride back if we came up short. After hearing all the captains and coaches speak, I could just tell that the team was ready to go the next day. 
Saturday, March 1:
After a restless night of sleep, I was not feeling quite as fresh as I would have liked. Since the mile was the first running event of the meet, I put pressure on myself to get the ball rolling. It doesn’t matter how well you do on the first day if you can’t carry that momentum into the next day. Fortunately, our heptathlete, Josh Peterson, did just that. Going in, we knew that NDSU would be dominant in the heptathlon. Realistically speaking, they still were, but Josh placing third was huge and got us started out on the right foot. I was able to come away with the win in the mile, and after that, things just started to roll for us. Unfortunately, the 5k was where my perfect weekend came to an end. While it did not go as well as I would have liked, I still managed a fifth-place finish, officially ending my final indoor Summit League meet. It was probably the sentimentality that comes with being a senior, but seeing all the athletes of each team line the track during the 4x400m and watching my teammates cheer for the Coyotes when we won the relay made me just a tad emotional. I may have even teared up a little bit if I’m going to be honest. Conference meets make up some of my favorite memories of being a Coyote athlete, and this weekend was no different. I was even lucky enough to be awarded The Summit League Championship Track MVP, which was a fantastic way to end the weekend. It is very humbling for me to have been given this award two years in a row. There are so many amazing athletes in The Summit League that competed this weekend, and I can’t believe I was fortunate enough to be selected again. 

I want to thank The Summit League and IPFW for putting on a fantastic league meet. I don’t know that I have ever had a negative thing to say about any of my conference experiences. Being in The Summit League has definitely elevated my performance; competing against some of the best athletes in the nation will do that. I am proud to be a part of it. Finally, I just want to thank my coaches and teammates for giving me such a great experience as a Coyote. The memories I have made these last four years will stay with me forever as some of the greatest times of my life. I am so excited to see what happens in May at the outdoor league championship.

- Jeff Mettler

Don’t forget to check out the next edition of My Championship Experience as it follows the Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships, March 8-11 and throughout the 2013-14 season for coverage at each of The Summit League Championships.

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