AZUSA, Calif. -- Victoria Martinez couldn’t have pictured a sweeter ending to her collegiate track & field career.
A year ago, Martinez assumed her career was done as she began to lay out her post-graduate educational plan, which included a doctoral degree in physical therapy. However, when the opportunity presented itself to fulfill her career goals while completing her last remaining season of eligibility for indoor track & field at Azusa Pacific, Martinez decided to give track one last shot.
That last chance culminated with her carrying Azusa Pacific’s hopes for the 2012 NAIA Indoor National Championship through the final mile she’ll ever run as a college athlete, anchoring the Cougars’ distance medley relay team, which clinched the program’s third women’s indoor national title by winning the event in a time of 11:45.59, just 19-hundredths of a second off the school-record Martinez helped set at last year’s indoor national meet.
Martinez, who also won the mile and 3,000 meter events earlier in the day, was named the meet’s Most Valuable Performer after posting a school-record 4:48.78 in the mile and claiming the 3,000 meter title with a 9:59.75. Behind a strong start from Breanna Leslie, who got the day started with a victory in the 60-meter hurdles, along with Martinez’s strong finish and standout performances from numerous others in-between, Azusa Pacific's women's track & field team claimed the 2012 NAIA Indoor National Championship Saturday, edging two-time defending women’s indoor champion Oklahoma Baptist by a half-point margin, 108 to 107.5.
The Cougars entered Saturday with a 37-28 lead over Oklahoma Baptist, and Azusa Pacific athletes won six of the eight events which they competed on the final day of the championship meet. Individual event winners were:
Breanna Leslie (60 meter hurdles)
Diandra Carstensen (1000 meters)
Victoria Martinez (Mile and 3,000 meters)
Lauren Jimison (5,000 meters)
Distance Medley Relay (Diandra Carstensen, Megan Vanwinkle, Breanna Leslie, Victoria Martinez)
In addition to the 60 points provided by the event champions, the Cougars picked up valuable points from a number of other sources. Kat Luna picked up a point in the team standings when she edged past Southern Nazarene’s Kalicia Williams by two inches for eighth place in the shot put with a mark of 43-feet, 5.75-inches. The Cougars’ trio that ran with Jimison in the 5k finals combined for another 10 points, with Kristie Sikma (fourth), Sarah Higgens (sixth), and Melissa Telon (seventh) each earning All-America status.
The Azusa Pacific men finished ninth in the team standings, snapping a streak of 11 consecutive top-four indoor finishes for the men’s program. The Cougars tallied 24 points, featuring All-American performances from Remontay McClain in both the 60-meter and 200-meter dashes, Cedrique Smith in the 60-meter hurdles, and Abednego Magut in the 5,000 meters.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Women's head coach Mike Barnett
“After Victoria won the mile, it was like a feeding frenzy. It was just PR after PR, and then we put them all together into a relay for a school record. You stand up there and pinch yourself and smile when you realize things are going your way. Even if we had missed by half a point, we would have been smiling because of all the great performances, but it’s certainly nice to have that reward at the top.”
“Even at the end of last season, we hadn’t even talked about her coming back for this season. We knew she had this year of eligibility, but we also knew she wanted to start her doctoral program in physical therapy. This season, she was the most fit she’s ever been. I think she was happy for this last opportunity, and obviously we are too.”
“We also have to be mindful of the work of our athletic training staff. They do a great job of monitoring the athletes’ minds as well as their bodies as they get ready to go back onto the track, and this championship would not have been possible without them.”
Senior Victoria Martinez
NAIA champion in: mile, 3,000-meters, distance medley relay
2012 NAIA Indoors Most Valuable Performer
“On Thursday the multi athletes and distance runners had done so well in their events, it gave me a lot of confidence. Then to see the throwers do so well, it really motivated me because they put it all on the line for the team. That’s what got me through today, to give me the confidence to take it to the next level, just knowing they had done it and it was my turn to do it.”
“The distance medley relay was most significant for me personally because it was a team event. Knowing that the coaches were counting on me and my teammates were counting on me, it meant so much for me to be able to bring it home for them.”
Men’s head coach Kevin Reid
“There were high expectations on some young guys, and we got some good, solid performances combined with some lessons learned that will be valuable down the line. It was a good, competitive meet, and I know Remontay’s pretty disappointed but also pretty motivated. Cedrique was running well, and I know he was disappointed to be second, but two times previously he came into this meet highly-ranked and ended up watching the final. We made some pretty good improvements and the guys are pretty disappointed, but we know what the upside is.”
“With the group we had here, if Zach doesn’t get sick this week, we could go from a top-10 team to a podium-level team. Now as we transition into outdoors, we’ll pick up guys like David Musson in the javelin, and Casey Stevick who was a national champion in decathlon and javelin, and our 4x100 relay will be a very strong race for us. Abednego also ran very well, and when we get outside, he’ll be much better with the longer distance (10,000) than the 5,000. I think we have a chance to get a lot better once we get outside.”
AZUSA PACIFIC TRACK & FIELD: BY THE NUMBERS
NAIA Women's Indoor Championships: 3 (2003-04-12)
NAIA Women's Track & Field Championships (Total indoor + outdoor): 7
NAIA Indoor Championships (Total men + women): 11
NAIA Track & Field Championships (men's & women's indoor & outdoor): 30