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Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Runner uses grit and determination to overcome knee injury

Junior runner Steven Martinez runs around the track during practice. Photo credit: Cam Lesslie

By making second team All-American for cross country and placing in the top 20 for both the 5K and 10K meter race, junior runner Steven Martinez has proven he cannot be slowed down.

Martinez suffered a knee injury in December while practicing and was unsure that he would be able to recover in time for track season.

“Three weeks ago I wasn’t sure that I would be this confident in my running,” Martinez said. “I’m running now and leading, and I feel good about it.”

The injury to Martinez may have shaken his confidence, but head distance coach Gary Towne was confident that Martinez would be successful in his recovery.

“We train with a lot of vigor, and he’s been training and doing really well. He has been hitting great marks,” Towne said.

Junior runner Aaron Mora was also not surprised at the Martinez’s successful comeback.

“He’s been having a great comeback. He started off racing more conservatively, but he’s been doing well, and he still has a few races coming up to get to nationals,” Mora said.

Junior runner Steven Martinez warms up before practice at University Stadium. Photo credit: Cam Lesslie

Both Martinez and Towne have their sights set on nationals with a goal of making it to first team All-American. While Martinez missed about two months of training, his determination and relentless practicing has helped put his goal within reach.

Although Martinez has found success in running at Chico State, his career in running began during his sophomore year of high school.

“My dad said either learn an instrument or join a sport, and since I’m bad at guitar I decided to run,” Martinez said.

Martinez’s original plan to attend Cal State San Marcos fell through after being told by the coach that he was not the type of runner they needed. Martinez decided to attend San Diego Mesa Community College for financial reasons and continued improving his running.

At the community college level, Martinez was one of the top three distance runners in California. Martinez made it to the State Championships during his sophomore year and won the state title in the 10K event.

Martinez said that he believes the biggest difference between competing at the community college level and the NCAA Division II level is the mindset.

“It’s a different level and mindset. When you compete at this level you have to think about it as just another race,” Martinez said.

Martinez plans to qualify for nationals in the 5K and 10K event and said that he believes the experience he has from cross country will assist him.

“The training is a little different. You focus more on speed for track, but it helps when you know you can run the distance,” Martinez said.

Martinez will be racing against time to meet a qualifying mark for the NCAA Division II National Championship, which will take place on May 26. With only a handful of chances to achieve his goal, Martinez is determined to overcome his injury and make it to nationals.

Kenta Mcafee can be reached at [email protected] or @KentaMcAfee on Twitter.

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