In final chapter, Betz gathers speed

By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer

Many think of college as a process, during which people get lost, are challenged, but ultimately find themselves. And when all is said and done, they’re better off for it.

Betz


As Indiana State University distance runner Dustin Betz reflects on where the past five years have brought him since graduating from Northeast Dubois in 2008, it becomes quite clear that journey is now paying dividends.

The Schnellville native is more than two weeks into his final outdoor track season on the Sycamore squad, coming off of an indoor campaign in which he continually shredded seconds off his 1-mile time, concluding with a gaudy performance in early March.

Betz bursted to a 4:05.96 in the Alex Wilson Invitational’s 1-mile race March 2 in South Bend, a personal best that netted him 17th in the event. The blistering finish came three weeks after Betz claimed third place in the mile with a then-personal record of 4:06.71 at the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark.

What’s more, the Wilson Invitational time came on the heels of an exhausting weekend at the Missouri Valley Conference Indoor Championships in which Betz competed in the 3,000-meter, 1-mile and 5,000-meter races. He finished second in the mile and third in the 3,000 before fatigue prompted a premature exit from the 5,000.

Betz said the exhaustion carried over to the following weekend in South Bend, where he still summoned the career mark.

“If I had fresh legs, I think I could have gone faster,” Betz said, downplaying his record time.

After taking a few weeks off after the Wilson Invitational for spring break in Panama City, Fla., and a couple weeks to simply recoup health in his legs, Betz picked up right where he left off to start the spring season.

At the Auburn Tiger Track Classic on April 5 and 6 in Alabama, Betz shaved 18 seconds off his record time in the 5,000 when he placed eighth of 28 entrants with a time of 14:27.71.

Betz’s recent tear arrives at the tail end of a five-year collegiate career that took some time gaining traction. As a freshman in the fall of 2008, a revision to the number of required core credit hours the NCAA mandates for its student-athletes left Betz two credits shy of the amount needed to compete. He was forced to redshirt and didn’t compete in a single race his freshman year.

When he finally did take to the track his sophomore year, improvement presented itself gradually, as it did his junior year as well.

Then came his senior campaign, during which Betz has shaved almost eight seconds off his top mile time as a junior.

Betz said the carved seconds are arriving at a much more drastic rate now than they did his first three years with the Sycamores. So why the change?

For one, Betz has revamped his diet to include more natural foods and has eliminated much of the processed variety he once consumed. He purchased a juicer last semester, and now relishes in combo snacks of liquefied cucumbers, apples and celery, among other ingredients.

Delicious.

“I wouldn’t go out and eat all these vegetables raw, so I figured juicing is the best way to do it,” Betz said with a chuckle.

Additionally, a lot of the triumph has stemmed from the trials. Betz said he understands the sport of running much better now from the last three-plus years of experience.

“Your mind is huge when it comes to road racing or anything physical you’re doing. That’s one of the biggest things that’s changed,” said Betz, who was named all-conference in the mile for indoor track this winter and all-conference for the second time in cross country last fall. “It comes with maturity. I think that’s a big part of it.”

Betz has flourished on the track. He also has in the Terre Haute community.

He assisted with Up ’Til Dawn, a fundraising event sponsored by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital whose proceeds go toward helping conduct cancer research and treating children with life-threatening illnesses.

Betz is also a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, comprised of two representatives from each ISU sports team, which meets every two weeks to discuss pertinent topics involving student-athletes. In addition, the aviation management major is a member of the school’s aviation club and scoots over to Hulman Air Field and Sky King Airport to practice landings and aerial maneuvers for an hour or two a couple times each week.

“Other than running, life is great,” Betz said.

Yet what’s impacted Betz the greatest has been a weekly Bible study group he’s joined at Cross Lane Community Church. While success can oftentimes muddle an athlete’s frame of mind, the Tuesday gatherings have helped keep things in perspective, Betz said.

“Over running and over everything else that’s going on in my life, that’s probably the biggest thing,” he said of the prayer sessions. “Having that relationship with God is probably the largest thing in my life right now.

“It’s good to broaden your spectrum and have a good faith base behind it.”

Now, Betz focuses on the immediate tasks at hand. He’s excited about the Jesse Owens Track Classic in Columbus, Ohio, which begins today. He’ll contend in a 1,500-meter field that promises to produce swift times. Next weekend, the parade marches on to the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, where Betz will compete in the steeplechase, an event he undertook his freshman year and one his father, Vic, competed in while at Indiana University in the 1970s.

Ultimately, Betz aspires to earn a trip to the NCAA outdoor track championships in Eugene, Ore., which begin the first week of June. As for cracking the four-minute mile, he’ll have to wait for the opportunity to arise, as collegiate outdoor meets use the 1,500 distance instead to conform to international standards. The mile, or 1,609 meters, is used only during the indoor college season.

A few final races to run. Seconds still to shave. All told, the journey’s been worth it.

“I can’t pencil on one particular thing,” Betz said when asked about his proudest achievement. “Overall, just meeting these guys at Indiana State and meeting pretty much everybody in the running community has been more of a privilege than winning any kind of award. Just being here has been more of a privilege than anything.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.




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