Martinez Named Mvp Of Jr. Nationals

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While many youngsters are complaining there's nothing for teen-agers to do, 16-year-old Rheanna Martinez was struggling last weekend trying to find ample time to take care of her obligations.

As a member of the Lady Longhorns' track team, Martinez spent most of Saturday competing in the sprint and jump events at the Arizona Boys Ranch Invitational held in Queen Creek.

In the long jump, she won the event coming within an inch of the school record. Minutes later, she took a second place in the triple jump, then ran her way to third place in the 100-meter dash. Running the lead-off leg of the 4x400 relay, she paced the team to a very easy victory. She might have entered more events, except track and field regulations restrict athletes to only four per meet.

Exhausted from the meet, Martinez was looking forward to a day off for much-needed rest and relaxation.

Early the next morning, though, she jumped in the family car and headed for Shadow Mountain High School where she participated in a USA Junior National basketball tournament.

Playing almost non-stop through three games, Martinez emerged from the fray as one of the three players coaches selected as "most outstanding."

The accolades continued to flow when officials named her the "Most Valuable Player" in the girls' competition.

For her efforts, she received an inscribed silver-dollar-sized medal and neck band. Participating in the USA Junior Nationals event was a first for Martinez despite the fact she has been a stalwart on the Lady Longhorn basketball team for the past two seasons.

The trip to the USA tournament began several weeks ago when she received a letter from Junior National Program Director Gene Edwards.

In the letter, the director wrote that Martinez had been identified by the Junior National basketball games committee "as one of the outstanding young basketball players in your region." The letter invited her to participate in Sunday's tournament.

The fray featured 40 of the best girl basketball players in Arizona. The athletes were divided into four teams of 10 players each and played in round robins against one another.

On the Rockets team, Martinez was joined by players from Mesa Westwood, Tucson Cholla, Buena Sierra Vista, Flagstaff and other state high schools.

"There were some really good players," Martinez said.

A teammate, Grace Tappe of Fountain Hills, was one of the Lady Horns' biggest competitors last year.

Winning MVP against such stellar competition was a thrill for the Payson High School sophomore but it could also lead to even more athletic adventures.

According to USA Junior National officials, the tournament Martinez competed in is "viewed as an entry level for athletes seeking to compete in other national events."

This summer, the USA Junior Nationals summer teams will be formed with athletes like Martinez and will represent their states in the U.S. Eastern Regional Games in Columbus, Ohio, July 12 to 18.

A good showing by Martinez there could earn her a berth in the U.S. vs. Canada basketball challenge to be played Aug. 2 to 6 in Toronto.

The prospects of playing on the national level are intriguing for Martinez, but for now, she says her concentration is on helping the Lady Horn track team win a Central Division championship and move on to state.

When the track season is over, there might be enough time for a taste of national-level basketball.

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