Saying Kristen Hetzel is well travelled is one of the understatements of the century.
The Wheeling native and the Class of 1998 Wheeling Central graduate will be adding Nancy, France to her travel schedule in September.
While the upcoming trip across the Atlantic Ocean will be her third trip to Europe, it's the first time she's going as an athlete to represent the United States of America.
WHEELING NATIVE Kristen?Hetzel poses with her medal after she finished third in her age group at the USA Duathlon Championship in April. Her finish earns her a trip to France for the World Championships.
Hetzel will be a member of Team USA at the Duathlon World Championships after she finished third in the 30-35 age group at the National Championships held in Tuscon, Az. where she currently resides and works as a physical therapist.
Hetzel, who was a standout prep and collegiate distance runner for Central and then West Liberty and Wheeling Jesuit, where she completed her undergraduate degree, hadn't been running in quite sometime. She'd been focusing on cycling after she had sought "a new athletic endeavor" upon her move to Arizona.
"Cycling went very well," Hetzel said.
After just three years in the sport, Hetzel was signed to a professional cycling contract by the team Trisports Cycling/Eclipse Racing, which is based in Tuscon.
"I've been racing with them for the past two years, but, recently, I had been having the urge to try a multi-sport event," Hetzel noted.
So while shopping at the Trisports store, Hetzel saw the flyer for the Duathlon Nationals, but really didn't think much about it until her sponsorship coordinator approached her.
"She offered to sponsor me in the event, but I hadn't ran for the last five years," Hetzel recalled. "Also, it was one month away."
After thinking about it for a few days, Hetzel decided to give it a shot.
"If anything, I thought it would be a good first experience to get into multisports and eventually merge into triathlons, which is what I want to try next," Hetzel said.
Basically on very little running training and absolutely no experience in duathlons, Hetzel was ready for the 35 kilometer bike ride, which is sandwiched between a pair of 5K runs.
"I was still competing in cycling races over the course of that month, so I wasn't able to put as much time into running," Hetzel admitted. "I was able to run between six and eight times."
Hetzel ran the opening 5K very "conservatively" and then made up all sorts of time during the cycling portion of the race before catching a few more competitors in the final 5K.
All told, Hetzel checked in with a time of 1 hour, 47 minutes and 47 seconds.
"I was so excited that I had just finished my first multisport event and finished feeling good," Hetzel offered. "Then I was even more excited to learn that I had placed third in my age group and did qualify to be on Team USA."
With each passing day, Hetzel finds herself still feeling on top of the world as she continues her preparation to represent the country.
"I am so excited," Hetzel said. "To be able to represent your country at a world championship, that's something that every athlete dreams of having the opportunity to do."
Hetzel is planning on competing in two more duathlons and two triathlons before the trip to France. Her first triathlon is in Bend, Oregon on June 24.
"I am training very smart and gradually building up my training with the addition of the running," Hetzel said. "I want to gain more experience in racing multisport events to better prepare for worlds."
Hetzel, who is 33, single and owns a doctorate degree from Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, Az., returns to the Ohio Valley frequently, or at least when her athletic and training schedule permits, which includes every Christmas.
"I love coming back to the Ohio Valley," Hetzel said. "All of my family is there and many of my long-time friends from high school. My training and racing schedule, throughout the year, typically has me traveling a lot, so I don't get back (to the valley) as often as I would like."
Staskey can be reached via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @TLSportsSeth