Sweet Sixteen: Martinez accomplishes rare feat of winning 16 varsity letters

Jon Mitchell
Coal Ridge High School senior Mariela Martinez is a four-sport athlete who will graduate from the school today. She accomplished the rare feat of earning 16 varsity letters during her high school career.
Jon Mitchell / Post Independent |

PEACH VALLEY — Mariela Martinez is a pretty busy girl.

Her typical school days as a senior at Coal Ridge High School this past spring — much like the past three springs before it — would typically last for more than 15 hours. It included honors classes, juggling practice and game times between track and girls soccer practice, and a stack of nightly homework that might make an average student break down and cry.

Not Martinez, though. She embraces the challenge.

“Oh, it’s definitely exhausting,” Martinez said. “A lot of people ask me how I do it. But really, it’s simply just a passion of mine to do sports, so it never really seems like any kind of a burden no matter how busy I am. So it never seems to me like I’m doing any extra work or anything. It’s just doing what I love.”

“Really, I just feel blessed that I got to go to a small school that would allow me to take on the kind of work load that not a lot of people could handle.” Mariela MartinezCoal Ridge High School senior

That passion has helped her accomplish something that’s rare in this day and age of student athletes increasingly specializing in only one sport in high school. Martinez will graduate with 16 high school varsity letters, giving the four-sport athlete four letters in each year of high school.

That also likely makes Martinez the first student-athlete from an area high school to achieve such a feat, though it’s not an accomplishment she consciously was going for when she first started school at Coal Ridge.

“That never crossed my mind,” she said. “I’m just a competitor, and I like proving that I’m up there with the big dogs. Having success only motivates me more.”

Martinez, 18, is a four-year letter winner in cross country, basketball, track and field and girls soccer. And aside from earning playing time with each sport, she’s earned plenty of accolades over the years.

She’s a two-time qualifier for the Class 3A State Championships in cross country and, this year, helped Coal Ridge send a team to the state meet. She was a first-team, all-league selection and team captain in basketball this year, averaging 10.1 points per game in helping the Titans return to the 3A state playoffs. The year before, she was an honorable-mention award winner.

In soccer, Martinez also earned first-team, all-league honors in her junior and senior years and helped the Titans reach the postseason in each of her four years on the team. Her crowning achievements, however, came in track and field, where she was a podium finisher at the 3A State Championships 13 times. She was a member of the Titans’ state championship 4×200- and 4×400-meter relay teams as a junior and, that year, ran the anchor leg for a relay team with Paige Ryan, Amber Bowles and Amanda Wenzel that set the state-meet record in the 4×400 with a time of 3 minutes, 57.98 seconds.

“It’s amazing the amount of things that she’s accomplished from the track to the classroom,” Coal Ridge track and field coach Ben Kirk said of Martinez, who boasts a cumulative grade point average of 4.2.

As if the four-sport thing wasn’t enough, she also served as Coal Ridge’s student body vice president while holding down a part-time job at the snack bar at the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool.

“She’s someone who is dedicated to her craft, no matter what it is,” Coal Ridge girls soccer coach Micah Herron said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s on the basketball court, on the track, on the soccer pitch or wherever.

“She’s very driven and very competitive, and being competitive is something that you just can’t teach,” the coach added. “[Her leadership] gets communicated and, a lot of times, doesn’t even have to be said because of how hard she works.”

That work ethic has paid off in a big way. Martinez, who was recently accepted to attend the University of Portland in Portland, Oregon, found out just this month that she officially earned a walk-on spot with the Division I school’s track and field program.

Martinez said that the workload she took on in high school while still being able to maintain some kind of social life was what her future college coaches were the most impressed with. Above all, though, she thinks the opportunity she had to do all of those sports and activities is what gave her the opportunity that lies in front of her on the West Coast.

“I think that they saw that I can handle myself under large amounts of activities,” she said. “I’ve been told it’s impressive that I can do as much as I do. Really, I just feel blessed that I got to go to a small school that would allow me to take on the kind of work load that not a lot of people could handle.”

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