Martinez will run at Lehigh
Palmerton’s Jake Martinez will attend Lehigh University where he will be a member of both the track and field and cross country teams. Participating in the ceremony were, front row, from left, sister Madison Martinez, father Michael Martinez, Jake Martinez, mother Melissa Martinez, sister Emma Martinez. Back row, Palmerton track and field head coach Mike Gombert, assistant coach Fran Gough, athletic director Andrew Remsing, and principal Bob Kern. PATRICK MATSINKO/TIMES NEWS
Jake Martinez knew exactly what he wanted.
“First and foremost, I wanted to go to a school that had a great academic reputation,” he said. “I’m going to school first to get a good education. And to be able to run on top (of that), on a Division 1 level is always icing on the cake.”
For Martinez, then, the decision was easy.
The Palmerton senior announced Wednesday that he will continue his athletic and academic career at Lehigh University, where he will be a member of the track and field and cross country teams.
“When I took my visits in the summer to the various different schools, Lehigh just clearly stood out,” Martinez said. “The coaches got to know me as a person. They truly care about me, not just as an athlete, but as a student and as a person.
“I just had a gut feeling that this could be my home. The team could be my family over the next four years, and my coaches helped incredibly.”
Martinez enjoyed his most successful track season this past spring, winning Colonial League and District 11 titles in both the 800 and 1600 before capping the year with an eighth place finish in the Class 2A 1600 for his first state medal.
His winning 800 time at the league meet – 1:59.75 – established a school record, one he broke a week later with a blistering 1:59.36.
Martinez was the 2017 Times News Boys Cross Country Athlete of the Year, a season in which he won the District 11 Class 1A title. Martinez has advanced to the PIAA Cross Country Championships in each of the past three seasons.
“That’s something I’m really proud of, to be able to continue to work, to stay relatively healthy over these past four years. And to be able to see the success grow and grow, it’s a testament to the work we put in,” said Martinez. “My family has been a huge support system. My coaches have been incredible; I wouldn’t be here without them. But to be able to continually grow and get better and compete at this level next is really exciting.”
The progress Martinez has made throughout his career hasn’t come as a surprise to those around him.
“He’s a brilliant kid. He’s been like this forever, and you don’t see that often,” said Palmerton track and field distance coach Fran Gough. “I coached for a number of years at the school I taught at, and this is like a once in a career type of thing, that you run into somebody that’s got the motivation, has the talent, has the drive to go with all that. He’s just been a joy to work with.
“Since his sophomore year, I said you’re going to be able to go wherever you want. You can pick and choose with your grades and your abilities, you’re going to be able to pick and choose where you want to go.”
Gough, a longtime family friend, has helped Martinez blossom into one of the area’s premier runners.
“I’ve always run competitively, and he got a hold of me in his eighth-grade summer going into ninth grade and said, ‘Hey, would you help me train.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I can do that,’” Gough remembered. “It was good to see him succeed there. And then we moved up a little bit further his next year.
“We’re looking for a good senior year out of him, just continued progress and we should see that. It’s been a joy being a part of the whole thing, and basically being along for the ride.”
Martinez, who will enter Lehigh undeclared in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is just as active in the school and community. He is a member of the National Honor Society, Student Council, and Future Business Leaders of America, where he qualified for the national conference.
Captain of both the cross country and track and field teams, Martinez is also involved in the newspaper, environmental club, and the Leo Club.
It all adds up to make Martinez and Lehigh a perfect fit.
“In the school community, just as a whole, he is probably the most visible person,” said Palmerton track and field head coach Mike Gombert. “Certainly the academics and the athletics are pretty obvious. But he’s in so many different clubs. He’s just a really busy guy, and he still finds time to do these things to make it to that level.
“He’s a terrific ambassador for the sport. He’s just a great ambassador for Palmerton High School, he really is.”