Freshman runner Celso Martinez is rapidly exceeding expectations on the Men’s Cross Country team, recently placing second among PCC runners in the 4-mile race at the Rio Hondo Classic on Friday.
Prior to the preseason, it looked very likely that Martinez wouldn’t be on the team and would use this season as an opportunity to benefit from training sessions with his teammates under coach Armand Crespo’s tutelage.
“I wasn’t sure if I would run him this season or give him the next 12 months to develop, which is something that I battled with at times,” Crespo said. “He has quietly moved up and hasn’t even been in the Top 2 runners during team workouts. His performance on Friday sort of surprised me, but didn’t due to the kind of person he is.”
Martinez is a runner who relies on his competitive instinct, positive attitude and ability to block out negative threats while he is racing.
“My strength is that I really like to compete,” Martinez said. “If a runner is in front of me during the race, I’ll do my best to beat them. I try to stay focused and not let any bad influences affect me. If someone is cheering for runners from another school, I’ll imagine that they’re cheering for me. Even if no one is cheering, I believe that I can win, because I like to stay motivated.”
Martinez was hugely influenced by his former high school running coach Michael Thatcher. Besides being a powerful role model, Martinez felt in awe of Thatcher’s presence and achievements.
“Mr. Thatcher competed at U.S. Nationals and won some medals,” Martinez said. “He became a great role model, because I felt like I was looking at an Olympian, which is something I knew I wanted to become one day. He was the perfect coach because he kept us focused 100% and made sure we also enjoyed the sport.”
It’s clear that Martinez has held on to this Olympic mindset, as he has lofty goals for this season.
“I’d like to break the 21-minute barrier for the 4-mile race and, beyond that, become the number one runner at PCC and get as close as possible to winning my events,” Martinez said.
Over the summer, the Cross Country team stayed and trained at Mammoth Lakes for a week. This involved some very intensive high altitude training and allowed the team to bond away from training.
“This trip helped us to prepare for the season, as the workouts were more difficult than what we were used to because we had less oxygen to breathe in,” Martinez said. “When we came back to PCC the workouts seemed like a piece of cake. We also got to see more of each other’s personalities, which built more friendships within the team.”
Off the track, Martinez is working towards majoring in national security. He is currently pursuing administrative justice over the next two years and intends to transfer to a major university.
Martinez will next compete at the So Cal Preview on Friday, Sept. 19 at Van Nuys.