Provo • Last year at this time, Shea Martinez had just finished up her prep career as one of the most decorated female distance runners in Utah history.
The former Davis High star will show this week that she is well on her way to repeating that success on the college level.
Martinez, a freshman at BYU, is part of the six-member Cougar contingent who will compete in this week’s NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon. Martinez will compete in the 800-meter run, after qualifying two weeks ago at the West Preliminary in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“I honestly didn’t expect to make it to nationals when the season began,” Martinez said Monday between flights as the Cougars traveled to the University of Oregon. “So I am approaching it like I have nothing to lose.”
Martinez will run in a qualifying round on Wednesday at 5:45 p.m.
Decathletes Chase Dalton and Joshua Weirich, javelin thrower Kyle Baker, steeplechaser Andrea Harrison and distance runner Jason Witt will also represent BYU at nationals.
“We have six headed to Eugene and we are excited for the opportunity to compete,” BYU track coach Ed Eyestone said. “We have Shea representing the future of our program to go along with our five veterans.”
Martinez, the 2010 Utah Gatorade Cross Country Runner of the Year, said her goal in Wednesday’s preliminary race is simply to run faster than she did in Arkansas, where she set a personal best of two minutes, 5.98 seconds in the 800 in the prelims.
“I just want to represent my school well and maybe lower my [personal record],” she said. “My goal is a 2:04 and I really believe I can reach that.”
The school record in the 800 is 2:00.5 and was set by Julie Jenkins in 1987. Eyestone has said that Martinez could threaten that some day.
“I am very happy for Shea and Andrea [Harrison],” Eyestone said after the NCAA Regionals. “They did a masterful job and battled hard. Shea ran like a veteran rather than a freshman and qualified on her time.”
Martinez was 10th overall in Arkansas with a time of 2:06.13.
“I was injured during the cross-country season last fall, so I was just hoping to get back to where I was last year [in high school],” she said.
Consider that done, but it hasn’t been easy duplicating her phenomenal high school success.
Martinez won two events at the Arcadia (Calif.) Invitational last spring, the 800 meters and the mile, and was one of the most heavily recruited track athletes in the state last year. She credits her high school coach, Corbin Talley, for much of her success.
“I wouldn’t be the runner I am today without Corbin Talley,” she said. “He helped develop my love of running, and my BYU coaches have continued that process.”
Eyestone said Wednesday will be huge for the Cougars. Martinez runs in the 800 prelims, Harrison competes in the steeplechase at 7:45 p.m. and seniors Dalton and Weirich begin the decathlon events with the 100-meter dash.
Witt’s 10,000-meter final will begin at 8:15 p.m. on Wednesday, while Baker has to wait until Saturday for the javelin competition. Baker posted a season-best throw of 65.45 meters to qualify for nationals.
Cougars at the NCAAs
BYU athletes at NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships:
Athlete Year Event
Shea Martinez Freshman 800 meters
Andrea Harrison Junior Steeplechase
Jason Witt Junior 10,000 meters
Chase Dalton Senior Decathlon
Joshua Weirich Senior Decathlon
Kyle Baker Senior Javelin
NCAA Track and Field Championships
At Eugene, Oregon
Online • ESPN3
TV • ESPNU