Olympian High School junior Alexandra Martinez likely didn’t realize how the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro would touch her life in the way it did.
She was one of 10 runners in the nation to earn a special invitation to a four-day camp in Big Bear hosted by U.S. Olympian Brenda Martinez.
“We focused a lot on the mental aspect of running – how to be happy, stay healthy and reach your dreams,” the Olympian runner explained.
The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Brenda Martinez grew up in Rancho Cucamonga and attended UC-Riverside. She was ranked among the top 800-meter runners in the United States but fate dealt her a raw deal at this summer’s U.S Olympic Trials. She tripped in the event and was unable to qualify. However, she elected to try her fortunes in the longer 1500-meter distance and, in dramatic fashion, finished third by .03 seconds to nail down the final berth on the U.S. team.
At the Rio Games, the 23-year-old Martinez finished 12th in her semifinal heat and did not advance to the final. Though disappointed, she vowed to return to the Olympics.
“Behind every strong, independent women lies a broken little girl who had to learn to get back up! I will be back!” she posted on Twitter.
The Olympian cross country and track and field standout has taken what she learned at the camp to heart — to be a better runner and be a better person.
This is Alexandra Martinez’s third year on the school’s varsity cross country team and that experience is now clearly paying dividends.
She stepped off the season by recording a second-place finish at the Mustang Invitational Sept. 9 at Rohr Park and sped to a first-place finish among Division I junior girls at the prestigious Mt. Carmel Movin’ Shoes Invitational Sept. 17 at Balboa Park’s Morley Field.
There’s a lot to make up for from last year when she fainted during her race at the league finals.
“I still completed the race,” she explained. “I used the motivation from cross country to do well in track. I PR’d in all my events in track.”
Martinez notched a total of six personal records as a sophomore in track and field: 1:03.3 in the 400-meter dash, 3:51.50 in the 1250-meter run, 4:59.54 in the 1500-meter run, 5:13.48 in the 1600-meter run, 11:29.00 in the 3000-meter run and 11:30.45 in the 3200-meter run.
She finished just .03 seconds behind teammate Mariana Beltran-Picos in the Mesa League girls 3200-meter championship race.
The two celebrated together as they received their medals.
“I think cross country has helped me be a good worker and persistent in training even when I don’t see much improvement,” she explained. “Being persistent in training works. I’ve improved a lot since my freshman year.”
Martinez said the start of each season has its exciting elements built in. “You never know how you compare to other runners who have been preparing by doing the same things,” she said.
Martinez is the epitome of a student-athlete. She has served as team captain the past two years, was the valedictorian of her eighth grade class and is the head of ASB activities at OHS as well as president of the class of 2018.
The cross country team’s rookie of the year as a freshman and most valuable runner last year as a sophomore, she owns school records in the 1500 and 1600 runs as well as the freshman 800 record in track.
She also plays piano and violin and is in the district orchestra.
“I am passionate about everything I do whether it is playing music, writing an essay, climbing a mountain, helping others or being with my family,” she said. “Growing up my parents let me try anything and everything. As a result of this, I have many passions. I also have put forth a lot of dedication to everything I love. In life I hope to strive for my best and thrive in all my passions. Along this exciting journey, I hope to learn, help, teach, love and grow with others.”
Brenda Martinez remains a role model. “She is an inspirational to all since growing up her parents did not have money to buy her shoes but she never gave up on her dream to be the best,” Alexandra Martinez said. “I hope that in the future I can give back to my community just like she has.”