Mettler, who only returned to the track in mid-May after recovering from injury, posted a time of 32:34.05 to earn the top American finish in the 24-runner final. With an outside starting position, Mettler had the farthest to go when the group cut. Sitting in 16th after two laps, she gained ground by the 2000-meter mark, as she clocked the fastest lap (1:18.92) to move into 13th. Mettler stayed tucked within the middle of the pack, as the field stretched out – and tightened up again. She broke into the top 10 at the 6400-meter mark and slowly worked her way through the field, picking off several runners as the chase pack broke away from the remainder of the field. In sixth with two laps to go, Mettler moved up three spots in the final 400 meters to finish third and match the program’s best finish ever in that event.
She is the third Air Force runner to claim All-America honors in the 10,000-meter run, joining fellow first-team selections Hannah Everson (third in 2016) and Jaci Smith (eighth in 2018).
“Just a truly gritty run by Maria,” Air Force distance coach Ryan Cole said. “To come back off her injury during the winter, fight through all the solitary cross-training, manage the uncertainty of even being able to race this year, the lack of running fitness during this outdoor season … the 32 minutes in the race was nothing compared to what she’s went through this year. I don’t think there are too many people that could do what she did. It’s absolutely awesome to see her rewarded tonight in the 10k. But this was a special run by a special athlete.”
Classmate Mahala Norris also had a stellar day on the track at Hayward Field, crushing her own Academy Record to advance out of the semifinal round of the 3000-meter steeplechase. With a fourth-place time of 9:37.53, Norris claimed one of the five automatic qualifying spots from her heat and deleted nearly seven seconds off her own program record. In addition to breaking the Academy Record for the third time in four races, Norris accounted for the third-fastest time in Mountain West history – and the 12th-fastest time in collegiate history.
Finding herself along the rail as the 12-runner lineup cut in, the recently-commissioned second lieutenant in the U.S. Space Force swung out into the second lane and quickly claimed her spot among the race leaders. Norris, who posted the fastest splits of the second and third laps, never relinquished her position within the top five, as the group separated from the rest of the field. Sitting in fifth at the bell, Norris used 1:13.55 split on her final time around the track to easily secure her place in the final.
Norris returns to the track on Saturday (June 12) afternoon, for the final of the 3000-meter steeplechase, which is slated to begin at 3:24 pm PT.