As a freshman attempting to be relevant on an experienced team that has a history of winning district championships and, hence, qualifying for regionals, Jacksonville freshman Emily Martinez knew that it wouldn't be easy to be among Fightin' Maiden Cross Country's top runners when the team began practice in late July.
While she had confidence coming in — Martinez was one of the top female distance runners at Jacksonville Middle School last season — she knew the competition of running along side a group of seasoned veterans would not be easy.
Simply stated, Martinez ran faster and faster with each race during the regular season and has developed into one of Jacksonville's fastest female cross country runners.
“Emily not only works hard,” Jacksonville head girl's cross county coach Tony Harris said, but she is an extremely intelligent runner.”
Martinez finished in second place in the individual standings at the District 16-5A Cross Country Championships in late Oct.
Her team came in first place in the team standings, and by doing so earned a trip to Dallas for the Class 5A, Region II Championships earlier this month.
In “Big D” Martinez had her finest day as a Maiden, as she finished in the top 10, among the individuals that were not on a team that qualified for state. Her finish was good enough to net her a spot in the Class 5A State Cross Country Championships, which will be contested at 2:30 p.m. Monday at Old Settler's Park in Round Rock.
Harris said he is not surprised that Martinez is still running just a few days before Thanksgiving.
“Before warm ups at regionals in Dallas, I explained to the ladies what time it would take as a team for us to get to Austin and I explained what time it would take for an individual to qualify,” Harris said. “When I explained the individual time, I saw Emily look at one of teammates and smile, and right then I knew that she was about to have a big day.”
Martinez said her goal at regionals was a simple one.
“I just wanted to make my teammates proud,” She said. “And, I really wanted to make it to state by trying my best.
“I just kind of put my mind to it that I was going to do it and beat my personal record by running faster than I ever had before.”
Martinez, who is planning on participating in track and field in the spring, said the race at regionals was physically demanding, and that it reminded her of a race she had ran in earlier in the season.
“Regionals was a really tiring race for me,” Martinez said. “It reminded me of how I felt after a race at UT-Tyler. That was my first race back from an injury.”
Looking ahead now, Martinez says that qualifying for state gives her a sense of satisfaction.
“I am very excited about being able to represent Jacksonville at state,” she said. “It is a really big thing for me.”