Drake Sterling vividly recalls the admiration he had for LaPorte High School’s school resource officer, Capt. Michael Kellems, prior to graduating in 2005.
Today, Sterling is a captain with the Zionsville Police Department — a career path directly influenced by Kellems in high school.
“Our SRO influenced a lot of kids, and he did a great job with his scope of influence,” Sterling said. “He encouraged kids and picked out the ones who needed a little more attention, and I always saw him as a mentor. He gave me a different perspective on how helpful police officers are.”
Sterling, 36, is now in his 14th year with the ZPD. He most recently completed graduate courses in 11 weeks at the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va.
“The FBI National Academy is a professional development opportunity and a personal choice,” Sterling said. “I took five graduate and one undergraduate course through the University of Virginia. There is also a physical component, and they try to encourage wellness and fitness.”
While at the academy, Sterling, who ran in high school, college and was a two-time All-American in the decathlon at Indiana State University, completed a 1-mile race and recorded the fastest 1-mile run in the 88-year history of the FBI National Academy with a time of 4 minutes and 49 seconds.
“I have been a runner my whole life,” Sterling said. “When we went there, they told us there was a record for the mile we would complete, which seemed attainable.”
Sterling said he spent his time outside of classes and regular fitness training going on runs. He found classmates to run with him.
“(Winning) was amazing because there were 190 other people in my class, and it was like they had set the record, too, because they were so excited and supportive,” Sterling said. “The great atmosphere made it a lot easier.”
The final academy fitness challenge is the “Yellow Brick Road” race. Sterling and his classmates completed a 6.1-mile run through a hilly, wooded trail built by the U.S. Marines.
Sterling won the race, which included climbing over walls, running through creeks, jumping through simulated windows, scaling rock faces with ropes, crawling under barbed wire in muddy water and maneuvering across a cargo net, among other challenges.
“(The event) was really fun,” Sterling said. “They start you in waves based on ability, which was fun because I got to run with everybody. At the same time, it was extreme and much more challenging than expected. The wall and rope climbing were pretty tough but fun.”
Upon returning from the academy, Sterling was presented the Special Achievement Award for his success at the ZPD’s annual holiday banquet.
“It was nice to be recognized,” Sterling said. “The award was basically for my record in the mile, first place in the 6.1-mile race and hopefully representing our department well. I wasn’t expecting the award, so I am very appreciative.”
Sterling coached track and field and cross country for 13 years and was the head coach for the girls track and field team at Zionsville High School for five years. He stopped coaching to devote more time to his job and his family.
“We had a lot of success and finished third place a couple of times at state,” Sterling said. “I left because my position with the police department started growing, and I wanted to focus on this job. My two kids also started school, so I wanted to put my time in at home, too.”
Sterling said the most rewarding part of his job is working in a “unique” town like Zionsville.
“Zionsville is a community-based town,” Sterling said. “We have a great working relationship with businesses and schools, making it a very easy and rewarding workplace. We aren’t always going from call to call and have time to take a breath and spend time with community members, which is what it comes down to and why most people become police officers — to help people, speak with people and do community policing.”
“Zionsville is a fantastic place to work and live, and my family and I are extremely lucky to be here. I hope citizens feel the same way.”
THE STERLING FILE
Name: Drake Sterling
Wife: Sarah Sterling
Children: “I have two children who are 6 and 8”
Hobbies: Running and spending time with family
Favorite places in Zionsville: Rail Trail and any restaurant or shop on Main Street