Sports

Kentlake's Alexander Martinez breaks school boys cross country record

Kentlake senior Alexander Martinez runs in the hard course in Seaside, Oregon
Kentlake senior Alexander Martinez runs in the hard course in Seaside, Oregon's Nike 3 Course Challenge Sept. 22.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Gina Hagen

On the Kentlake cross country team, he’s known as “The Flash.”

Senior Alexander Martinez, the top runner for the Falcons, took 10th place at the Westside Classic District meet Oct. 27 then followed that up with a 14th place finish at state, the highest of any Kent or Tahoma schools boy runners with a time of 15 minutes, 47 seconds.

His race time not only broke his own personal record by nearly 20 seconds, but he broke the all-time school cross country record of 16:03.

“It was amazing,” said Carri Heitz, one of the Kentlake cross country coaches. “It was so gutsy. He kept moving up the entire race. Every time we saw him he was further up and further up until the very end.”

For a runner who started out not even knowing how cross country worked as a sport and shaved nearly four minutes off of his personal record in a single year, he could also be called “Mr. Incredible.”

Although Martinez was never particularly athletic, he said he always had an interest in running.

The idea of speed came naturally to him. When he’d watch kids run as a child, he often suspected he could outrun them.

It wasn’t until the end of his freshman year at Kentlake when his stepmother mentioned cross country to him. Two months before the season started, he decided to join the team, without any pre-training or preparation whatsoever.

Despite the less than glorious aspects of cross country, including the hyper-sore muscles, the excruciatingly taxing speed work intervals, and the lengthy runs, Martinez said he appreciated and enjoyed what the sport had to offer him.

“I thought it (cross country) was hard, very tiring but it was definitely a fun challenge,” he said. “I enjoyed the fact that it was a test of endurance, of how far you could push yourself.”

His first year wasn’t spectacular, he said, and his times, around 20 minutes, placed him in the middle of the pack, according to Heitz.

“He tried really hard,” Heitz said. “He kept bringing his times down but he was still running in the 20s. We didn’t know what potential he had.”

But Martinez knew he had the potential to be a great runner. All he had to do was work hard enough for it.

Slowly, his talent began to show, particularly when he joined the track team in the spring and worked on trimming time off of his mile race to around five minutes.

Then, during the summer, he ran. A lot. Around 300 miles of running. The intense road work paid off when he returned for his sophomore year. During the pre-season time trial, he clocked in at 18:11, a three minute improvement that left the coaches stunned.

“We were super impressed,” Heitz said. “Nobody expected it. It came out of nowhere.”

It was at the Seaside Three Course Challenge in Oregon, Heitz said, where they realized Martinez’s future spot on the team when he came running along the beach ahead of their top runner.

After finishing 137th at the league meet his sophomore year with a time of 20:10, Martinez concluded his junior season with a trip to state, coming in at 47th with a time of 16:20.

“It made me proud, seeing how hard he worked to get there,” Heitz said. “I had never seen a kid do that. We started expecting a little bit more from him.”

Among the many ways his coaches help him improve, such as proper posture and stretching, Martinez said they’ve also helped tell him when to not overdo it, and by “it” they meant running.

Using the same formula for success as he did the previous summer, Martinez ran 400 miles in preparation for this season.

Like most cross country runners, Martinez’s favorite moments are those when he manages to push himself to his limit, and then some, such as last year’s state championship meet, where he said he was able to push himself past not only his own limitations, but several runners around him to the finish line.

“I felt I worked really hard for what I have now and it was a huge improvement,” he said.

As Heitz sees it, though, this is just the beginning for Martinez’s running career.

“I think he’s got more potential than he’s even shown,” she said. “He just keeps getting better. It’s pretty amazing.”

 

 

 

 

 

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