Look up the definition of “hard work” in the dictionary and it’s possible you may find a photo of LFO’s Erik Martinez next to it.
The junior has been a cross country standout for the Red-and-White ever since he arrived on campus as a freshman and he continued to set the pace for the Warriors again in 2017.
Martinez picked up a Chattanooga Area Cross Country League meet win at Grove Level in Whitfield County early in the season, clocking in with a 17:40, and he finished the year with an average time of 17:37.
Among his achievements were a personal-best 17:26 at the Front Runner Championships at Baylor, a fourth-place finish at the Region 6-AAA meet (17:46) and a third consecutive berth in the state finals, where he continued to climb the ladder.
His 17:36 that day in Carrollton gave him a 15th place overall finish and marked the second straight year in which he has improved on his state final placement from the previous year.
“It makes me feel great,” Martinez said of being named the Catoosa County Boys’ Cross Country Runner of the Year for 2017. “I feel like I put in the work every day and everyone around me also helped and encouraged me to do better all the time.”
Martinez’s steady gains on the course are a product of his dedication to the sport, which began for him in the eighth grade.
“My friend (and LFO teammate), Javier Gomez, encouraged me to run and from then on, I’ve just loved running every day,” he explained. “It was something to do and my goal has always been to get better. Even if the odds are against you, just keep trying.”
Martinez said he runs about five days a week in the off-season and bumps it up an extra day when cross country season rolls around.
“I try to keep it going and not stop,” he said. “There are times when I do stop, but I try to pick it up again and when the season starts back up, I just try to go non-stop. There does come a point when you have to rest, but I just try to rest for one day.”
“His work ethic is above and beyond any other runner we’ve had here, probably in the last 5-10 years,” LFO head coach Michael Brown said. “He definitely pushes it in the off-season all the way through the season itself to maintain and improve. That’s tough because a lot of runners start getting complacent and even bored, for lack of a better term, and they don’t push as much when it was exciting in the beginning of the season. What helped him place so high at state was his continuing effort to push on through the season.”
Brown added that Martinez serves as an example for any future LFO cross country runners that success is there for the taking, if they are willing to put in the work.
“(His success) shows that we are a viable program and that anybody can come to LFO and succeed at the county and state level,” the coach said.
And with one season still to go before he hangs up his LFO uniform for good, Martinez says he plans to keep doing what he’s always done - work.
“My goals for next year are the same as every year - to keep pushing it,” he said. “But I’m really going to give it my all. Even if you’re dying out there, you just have to keep pushing through. That’s what I plan to do.”