Before every season, before any runner steps on a course, the goal of every cross country runner within the state of Iowa is to claim a high school crown. For ADM’s own Nate Mueller, that goal became reality Saturday, Nov. 2 as he became the boys Class 3A individual champion.
Out of the 130 total runners in the field, Mueller bested them all thanks to a time of 15:45.7.
“It’s so surreal, I don’t know what to say or think right now,” said Mueller after crossing the finish line. “This was something I’ve wanted for so long and have so hard for.”
It was a tough and talented field to tackle, and one that took Mueller all the way to the end to defeat.
“I knew no lead was safe until I crossed that finish line,” said Mueller. “The last third of the race was really difficult and I knew that of any stretch, that was the one I couldn’t let off on because Quinton can run.”
It was the jump that Mueller had been working for, improving from a third-place finish at state last year behind Humboldt’s Quinton Orr who placed above Nate. While the biggest push for Mueller was the goal of first place, the battle with Quinton was an added motivation that continued to push the junior on to the end.
“I fell just short last year and Quinton edged me out,” began Mueller. “My main goal was to run my race and I did but once I was in a position to take first with Quinton right behind me, it was definitely an added push for me.”
Mueller has taken first place in nearly every meet this season. It’s been a sort of revenge campaign for the junior, one which began at the end of state track last season and continued on through the offseason. Letting go of AAU basketball, Mueller took the summer to focus on his running and at the end of it all, it produced an individual championship.
“All the work I’ve done in the offseason has led to this,” began Mueller. “I made a promise to myself after state track last year and that I’ve stuck to that. If you want it bad enough you’ve got to put in the work.”
A third time equaled the charm for Mueller who now sits atop the Class 3A world, something that he and head coach David Zwank planned for.
“Just making it to state, while it is nice, the goal is for more,” said Zwank after state qualifying. “He has worked extremely hard this offseason and the goal was far more than just making it.”
Now, Mueller reigns supreme as the individual champion with yet another year left to defend his title.