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Martinez races into record books

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Senior leads Cleveland’s first-day charge in 5A

Luis Martinez had just one thought as he circled the track well ahead of the pack in Friday’s Class 5A 1,600-meter finals.

“I got to get that,” he said after handily winning the event in a time of 4:11.66. “I got to get that.”

What he was talking about was the state record set in 2004 by one of the more decorated New Mexico athletes, Shadrack Kiptoo of La Cueva.

Although Martinez didn’t quite hit his goal of “4:10 or 4:11,” he finished more than a second better than a Kiptoo’s mark of 4:12.84.

“It was the only thing in my head was that,” Martinez said. “All season I’ve been trying to go fast, and I just couldn’t. Then finally last week, I went 4:14 and I was like, ‘All right, I’m just going to go for it at state,’ and I did.”

The gold was the seventh at state for Martinez, who will try to complete the double of the distance events today when he goes for the 3,200.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “I can’t even explain it. I’m just happy.”

Pushing himself with the rest of the runners trailing well behind was the biggest challenge, Martinez said.

“It’s rough,” he said. “It takes some focus. The first part of the season I just couldn’t get going fast because there was no one pushing me. Here toward the end, I was just like, ‘I’m just going to go.’ ”

His Storm teammates who run the 4×100 also grabbed a record, erasing one of the oldest ones in the book.

The Cleveland quartet finished the preliminary in 41.17 seconds, breaking Highland’s 1987 mark of 41.60.

Although those were the only records, there were plenty of other noteworthy performances on a day with just two running finals and a handful of field finals.

Sandia Prep’s A.J. Beach, younger brother of former Albuquerque Academy superstar Curtis Beach, won his first individual medal, coming from well behind on the final lap of the 3A 1,600 to win.

“You just have to be like, ‘I’m going to win this,’ ” he said. “And that’s how I felt.”

Amanda Babicke of Pojoaque Valley celebrated her 18th birthday in style, soaring a personal-best 18-4 in the long jump, coming within 2 inches of a state record.

“It’s definitely one of the best birthdays I’ve had,” Babicke, who has signed to compete at UC Davis next year.

Albuquerque runners controlled the girls 3,200, with Sandia Prep’s Rachel Fleddermann overcoming a nasty tumble halfway through the 3A race to win in 11:51.82. Jenna Thurman of Del Norte pulled away from the 4A field to win in 11:33.15, and Eldorado’s Jessie Hix emerged from the 5A pack to win in 11:30.56.

Hix, who was wobbly after the race and had to be walked around with assistance for several minutes, said she knew when she had to go hard for the lead.

“It felt like the time,” she said. “I still had some legs, and I could push it a little more.”

Thurman had hoped to go for a record, but the wind picked up in the afternoon so she settled for the victory.

“The first couple of laps are already fast, so you don’t need to push it on those laps,” she said. “Toward the middle of the race, you have to start picking it up because everyone else starts slowing down because they’re getting tired. A little more effort will give you the same pace.”

Fleddermann called the fall that left her with bloody, scraped knees “embarrassing. It was probably my spike. I was looking at the clock and not paying attention to my feet. It happened really quickly.”

But she already had a large lead, and she quickly popped up and finished out the victory.

“I came in here wanting to run as fast as I possibly could,” Fleddermann said.

Highland senior pole vaulter Anthony King survived a jump off with Manzano’s Hayden Walker to win at 14 feet.

“This is my second year of pole vaulting and to come out with a gold medal at state is remarkable,” said King, who lived the past two years in California and attended a school that could not afford the insurance for the event. “I have a passion for it.”

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