Pushed to the extreme in the hardest race of his life, Leilehua’s Margarito Martinez sought refuge in the athletic trainers’ tent for the first time.
In the race between the top two runners in the state, Martinez was challenged and pushed by Island School’s Pierce Murphy at yesterday morning’s Honolulu Marathon/HHSAA State Cross Country Championships at Patsy T. Mink Central Oahu Regional Park.
Murphy’s early lead in the 3-mile race threw off Martinez’s race plan as he usually runs uncontested. But Martinez made his move midway through the race to win his second straight state title in 15 minutes, 56.65 seconds.
"Pierce, he came out and did what he had to do," said Martinez, a senior. "He gave me the race of my life and I never ran like that before, never felt like that after a race. I’ve been exhausted but I’ve never been to the point where I had to go to the trainers’ tent."
Running together through the first mile, Martinez made his move on the hilly course. It’s rare for runners to go under 16 minutes at CORP, but Martinez did so for the second straight week after winning his second Oahu Interscholastic Association title last week. Leilehua runners have won the past five state titles with Bryce Jenkins winning from 2006 to 2008.
"I really appreciate my coach (Shawn Nakata). He gave me the perfect game plan," Martinez said. "At a mile and a half, I just picked it up and I didn’t look back and I knew he (Murphy) had a strong kick because he’s an amazing runner."
Kamehameha’s Jordan Thibodeau caught up and finished second in 16:09.55 while Murphy, whose school is located on Kauai, was third in 16:17.15.
Thibodeau and four of his teammates placed in the top 20 to help the Warriors defend their team title with a meet-low 46 points. The Warriors have won a state-best 12 team titles. Leilehua was second with 69 points and Iolani was third with 87.
"It was hang on, hang onto the guy in front of you," Thibodeau said. "Listening to our team talk, they said if you weren’t there I wouldn’t have pushed. We were all there pushing each other."
Kawena Akiona finished fifth in 16:56.15, Joshua Freitas was 15th (17:28.60), Alexander Ortega was 18th (17:30.00) and Caleb Acheula was 20th (17:34.45). Also on the Warriors’ winning team were Collin Pidot (33rd, 18:09.65) and Kyle Nakatsuka (65th, 18:43.15).
"We knew it was going to be a hard challenge against them (Leilehua), it was close," Akiona said. "We knew we had a challenge ahead of us and we needed to stick together."
In the girls race, Seabury Hall freshman Dakota Grossman, pushed by nerves and adrenaline, led from start to finish in winning the girls 3-mile race in 19:25.50.
Grossman opened up an early lead over Punahou’s Elli Brady, who won last year’s state title as a freshman, and kept the 10-second gap between them the entire race. Brady finished second in 19:37.40 and Hawaii Baptist’s Heidi Nicholls third in 19:43.35.
"I heard people yelling like how many meters (back Brady was) but I didn’t look behind," Grossman said. "I just like to run and make sure they don’t get any closer. I always get scared so I don’t want them to catch up."
Punahou placed all seven of its runners in the top 20 to win its sixth consecutive team title and state-best 24th overall with 48 points. Hawaii Prep was second with 70 and its team was elated to receive the runner-up trophy. Kamehameha was third with 118.
Punahou runners who followed Brady were Julia Brand (10th, 20:37.10), Kyleigh Mann (11th, 20:38.00), Melissa Wong (12th, 20:43.35), Noe Lum (18th, 20:52.25), Hallie Lam 19th, 20:53.95) and Jaime Durso (20th, 20:55.10).
"It’s great to see all seven of us get into the top 20 and that’s something that’s never been done in Punahou history before," Brady said. "It’s just really amazing to see how we work together and you see them in groups of three, working together as a team. We’re all really close and it’s been a really great season and it paid off today."