Reaching new heights: ADM's Nate Mueller wins two Drake Relays titles, looks ahead to state

Megan Teske
ADM's Nate Mueller competes at the Drake Relays on Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Des Moines, Iowa.

ADM's Nate Mueller proved he was one of the top distance runners in the state, winning two titles in the 3,200 and 1,600-meter run at the Drake Relays on April 22. But running wasn't his first love. 

Mueller first started running in middle school for fun, but said he didn't take it too seriously. Basketball has always been his first love, and although it was fun winning the races he competed in, he said track and cross country took more of a backseat.

Mueller credits his parents for pushing him to continue track, because he said they knew he would enjoy it eventually. That moment came when Mueller realized his potential and started to train in the offseason.

“I just fell in love with it over time,” Mueller said. “Just from winning and I just fell in love with training and stuff like that and so it really became a love of mine now.”

That love for the sport is what helped push Mueller to continue training over quarantine when the 2020 track season was canceled because of COVID-19.

Nate Mueller of ADM competes in the boys 3200 meter run during the Drake Relays at Drake Stadium on Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Des Moines, IA.

With the season canceled, Mueller said he had no state meet, or any meet in general, to look forward to, but he had something else to push him.

Mueller’s goal was to continue running competitively in college, and at the point when COVID-19 first canceled the season, he was still reaching out and contacting coaches. 

“Even though there wasn’t any meets to look forward to I knew I still had to train because I knew when that opportunity does pop up I’m gonna need to be ready for it,” Mueller said.

Boys track and field head coach Jesse Hunt said that intrinsic motivation is what has propelled Mueller to reach new heights and it has been nice to see all his hard work pay off.

The training Mueller did over quarantine turned out to not be in vain, as he ended up competing in a meet in June in Arizona where he ran well, and Mueller said coaches started noticing him after that.

ADM's Nate Mueller leads the entire Class 3A boys state field on Friday, Oct. 30 in Fort Dodge.

Not only did Mueller get other coaches’ attention, he was recently named the Gatorade Iowa Boys Cross Country Player of the Year.

Hunt said getting the award is a prestigious honor and well-deserved for Mueller, as Mueller is a two-time cross country champion and consistently runs some of the best times in the state.

Aside from the running accolades, Hunt said the award also recognizes the kind of person and leader Mueller is as well.

“I would believe that there is a lot of respect across the state for the kind of guy he is and the kind of leader that he’s become and the amount of work that he’s put in to be able to accomplish these goals and dreams of his,” Hunt said.

Now nearing the end of the track and field season, Mueller most recently competed in the Drake Relays on April 22, running in the 3,200 and 1,600-meter events.

Mueller captured first in both races.

Qualifying for the Drake Relays is an accomplishment on its own, as Hunt said  it's an opportunity earned by few Iowa athletes, but winning both events is another thing entirely. 

“I didn’t get much sleep the night before just cause I was so excited and nervous,” Mueller said. “But it was a good nervous, I was just ready to get out there and do something special.”

ADM's Nate Mueller competes at the Drake Relays on Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Des Moines, Iowa.

On top of these accomplishments, Hunt said Mueller is also a great leader and very team-centered.

Mueller has been a captain since his sophomore year, and while his teammates respected his work ethic then, Hunt said they respect him as a leader now because of all he does, such as messaging teammates for offseason workouts and cheering others on.

“The things that when you’re such an elite runner that you could be just simply tumbling in and just focusing on what he needs to accomplish, but he’s grown in so many ways to be a leader who truly is set out to inspire our team to a whole other level,” Hunt said.

With conference and state coming up for ADM, Mueller’s personal goals are to get a sub-nine and a sub-4:10 for times, but he also just wants to run his best for his team at the state meet.

Following this season, Mueller will be off to Iowa State University to run on scholarship there.

Hunt said Iowa State has an excellent distance program, which is exciting for Mueller because he’ll join an elite group of runners and he will be able to see what he can do at the next level.

“He’s built the correct mindset to compete at the highest levels and it’ll be fun to see him continue to compete,” Hunt said.

“[I hope to] develop as a distance runner and hopefully eventually be at the level where I can be All-American,” Mueller added.

Nate Mueller of ADM comes down the home stretch in the boys 3200 meter run during the Drake Relays at Drake Stadium on Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Des Moines, IA.