Lauren Martinez heads to Eugene, Oregon, to say her goodbyes.
“It really is going to be over, and I’m sad about it,” Martinez said. “Pole vault has been a part of my life for so long.”
Martinez, a former four-time New Mexico prep state champion from Eldorado, qualified this week for the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene. She’ll compete on Thursday night, beginning at 6 MDT.
Martinez was the runner-up at the recent NCAA Championships, which also were in Eugene. Martinez, a senior at the University of Arkansas, qualified for the Olympic Trials not at the NCAAs but at the SEC Championships in College Station, Texas, where she cleared 4.49 meters, or 14 feet, 8¾ inches.
Reaching next month’s Summer Olympics in Japan is, she said, not on a practical menu. And she’s made peace with that.
“Getting to the Olympic Trials is the main victory for me,” Martinez said Tuesday morning in a phone interview from Eugene. “The pole vault has incredible talent this year. My goal will be to make the final, but I know that making the Olympics is not what I’m here to do.”
Having already applied to the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Martinez’s trajectory is to become a doctor. And she is moving back to Albuquerque next week.
Which makes the Trials the pole vault swan song for the 24-year-old, who burst onto the local pole vaulting scene with her victory at the state meet as a freshman in 2012.
It was an event she dominated throughout her Eagles career, and she remains New Mexico’s overall state record holder.
Martinez is currently at the end of her third “senior” season in college. She recently earned her master’s degree in kinesiology from Arkansas.
She was a senior at Cal two years ago, but it became a medical redshirt year due to injury. After graduating from Cal, she still had a season of eligibility remaining, and transferred to Arkansas where she was a senior (for the second time) last year. She even qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships – slated to be held in Albuquerque in March 2020 – but the pandemic caused that meet to be canceled.
Still, the pandemic created an opening for an additional season with the Razorbacks, which is why Martinez laughs when she refers to her age.
“I’ve had three senior seasons,” she said. “It’s been quite amazing.”
She had hoped all along that the Olympic Trials would be her final meet. And it will be, just a year later than planned.
“I wasn’t even thinking I would have the chance to do this,” she said. “This has just been like a dream come true. I feel very thankful to even be here, with the level of talent that is going to be competing.”
Martinez was in incredibly good spirits Tuesday, even as she realized her shelf life as a competitive athlete likely only had about 48 hours remaining.
“I’m emotional,” she admitted.
As she wouldn’t start medical school at UNM until the fall of 2022, Martinez said she’ll have a year off after she moves back to New Mexico. For now, Martinez is reflecting on her wondrous years in track and field.
“I’m reminiscing on the whole experience,” she said. “I know this will be the last meet for me, but I’m excited to finish on this note.”