The 2018 Ca­toosa-walker County Cross Coun­try Dream Team

The Catoosa County News - - SPORTS - By Scott Herpst [email protected] By Scott Herpst [email protected]

For the se­cond straight year, LFO’S Erik Martinez has been named the Ca­toosa County Boys’ Cross Coun­try Run­ner of the Year.

The se­nior, who will leave LFO this sea­son hold­ing the un­of­fi­cial ti­tle of the best boys’ cross coun­try run­ner to ever come through the school, kicked it into an even higher gear this fall.

Martinez’s aver­age time was un­der 18 min­utes this past sea­son. Take away a 20:06 run on a very tough course in Dal­ton un­der ex­tremely tough con­di­tions early in the sea­son - Martinez still fin­ished third in the race - and his aver­age time for the year was a sparkling 17:27.

He had a run­ner-up show­ing at the sea­son-open­ing meet at Her­itage and picked up five top-three fin­ishes, in­clud­ing third place at the Re­gion 6-AAA cham­pi­onships in Reseca, where he qual­i­fied for state for the fourth con­sec­u­tive year.

Martinez cred­ited ex­tra train­ing for his suc­cess this sea­son.

“This year has been the best of all,” he said. “I came here as a fresh­man and started run­ning and re­ally just ran my sopho­more and ju­nior years with­out any re­ally proper train­ing.

“But this year was a big dif­fer­ence. Alan Out­law and Michael Walker from Fast Break have been help­ing me since July. They have pushed me to be the best I can be and I also have to thank my coach here (at LFO), First Sergeant (An­thony) Heath for his in­spi­ra­tional speeches be­fore ev­ery meet to keep me in a pos­i­tive mood.”

“The prac­tices that we did at school were just a warmup for him,” Heath said. “He’d keep run­ning af­ter we’d fin­ished and he’s still run­ning and train­ing now. I think he was go­ing to do any­where from six to nine miles to­day in the cold. You wish you could bot- tle up his work ethic and give it to peo­ple.”

Martinez said he was hon­ored to get this year’s award.

“Any run­ner that gets this type of award should be grate­ful, be­cause we’ve all put in the work,” he said. “We com­mu­ni­cate with each other as well. It can be re­ally tough. Some days you don’t want to get out of bed, but you still have to put in the work if you want to suc­ceed in the fu­ture. That’s how we’ve been rolling and that’s how I’ve been rolling.”

He said his most mem­o­rable mo­ment came at this year’s state cham­pi­onships. Not only was his time of 17:34 (19th place) on the in­tense Car­roll­ton course his all-time best at state by two sec­onds, he fi­nally man­aged to fin­ish ahead of friendly re­gion ri­val Jesse Martinez, Mur­ray County’s two-time re­gion cham­pion, who had edged out the LFO stand­out at meets sev­eral times in the last cou­ple of years.

“He was ahead of me with about a half-mile to go and I knew that it was my chance,” he ex­plained. “I had to go get him be­cause it was prob­a­bly the last time we were ever go­ing to race against each other. It’s some­thing I’ll never for­get.”

Heath said Martinez was just an hon­est, hard-work­ing kid.

“You can ask any­one here, you talk to Erik for 30 sec­onds and you see the type of per­son he is,” the coach added. “He has a per­son­al­ity that just comes through. He’s the epit­ome of what a young stu­den­tath­lete should strive to be like. They should put a statue of Erik up at the school and say this is the type of stu­dent-ath­lete you should be.”

Martinez, who said he is hope­ful of re­ceiv­ing a schol­ar­ship of­fer to run in col­lege, said he plans to com­pete on the track for the War­riors later this spring.

Last sea­son, Al­li­son Craft made an easy tran­si­tion to the world of high school cross coun­try run­ning, av­er­ag­ing 22:40 for her fresh­man sea­son and fin­ish­ing fifth at the Re­gion 6-AAAA cham­pi­onships as she ended up split­ting Ca­toosa County Girls’ Run­ner of the Year honors with two of her Her­itage High se­nior team­mates.

This sea­son, she took full ad­van­tage of her chance in the spot­light.

An­other year older and an­other year wiser, Craft had six top-10 fin­ishes and five top-three fin­ishes dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son, in­clud­ing two run­ner-up show­ings and her first 6-AAAA ti­tle as she crossed the tape in a dom­i­nat­ing 20:48 to help the Lady Gen­er­als win the team cham­pi­onship.

To­day, she caps her out­stand­ing sea­son with an­other Ca­toosa County Girls’ Run­ner of the Year award, but this time she has it all to her­self.

“It feels re­ally good,” she said. “I was happy to find out that I had been hon­ored for my ac­com­plish­ments and for work­ing hard this year. It was a pretty suc­cess­ful year. I didn’t have my best races to start out, but I ended up hav­ing more ac­com­plish­ments and get­ting a lot faster by the end of the sea­son.”

Craft took a full 41 sec­onds off of her aver­age time from last sea­son as she ended up with an aver­age of 21:59 in her sopho­more year. That in­cluded a sea­son-best 20:29 at the Front Run­ner Cham­pi­onships at Bay­lor.

“I put in more work over the sum­mer than I did the year be­fore,” she ex­plained, es­ti­mat­ing that she ran be­tween 250 and 300 miles in the off­sea­son. “I worked a lot harder dur­ing prac­tice too.”

Head coach Jeremy Wynne said that Craft “had a re­ally great year.”

“She was our fastest fe­male run­ner this sea­son and she was re­ally con­sis­tent all sea­son long, even at prac­tice,” he said. “She’s also one of our hard­est-work­ing kids. She and (team­mate) Lucy Hicks were train­ing part­ners. They re­ally pushed each other most of the sea­son and I think they made each other bet­ter. At some point, though, Al­li­son re­ally just put it into an­other gear and just pro­gres­sively got bet­ter.”

De­spite her youth, Craft said she felt like she had to be a leader on a team that had quite a bit of youth.

“Know­ing the com­pe­ti­tion level, it kind of helped me to­wards be­ing more of a leader,” she added.

“I saw a lot of lead­er­ship skills de­velop in her as the year went on,” Wynne agreed. “She’s one of those kids that lead by ex­am­ple and it seems like the rest of her team­mates fol­low her lead nat­u­rally. I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing that (lead­er­ship) de­velop even more next year.”

Craft said she has al­ready set goals for her ju­nior cam­paign.

“I’m hop­ing to get an­other re­gion ti­tle and to do a lot bet­ter at the state meet,” she con­tin­ued. “And I’d like for our team to win an­other re­gion cham­pi­onship next year too.”

“She’s al­ready com­pet­i­tive at the re­gional level, but we want to see her get bet­ter at the state level,” Wynne said. “We want her to be in that 19-minute range in­stead of the 20’s and she’s very ca­pa­ble of it. I think she’s a lot more ca­pa­ble of it than she re­al­izes. She just has to dig deep, con­tinue to work hard and push it a lit­tle more. But as she gets older, I think all the pieces will start to come to­gether and she’ll be­come some­thing re­ally spe­cial.”

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