Teen Jumps For Chance At Scholarship

Track star favors Southern California


As one of Arizona's best track and field athletes, Rheanna Martinez is laying the foundation for what could turn into a lucrative college scholarship.
The Payson High School standout, who will be a senior next fall, has received volumes of cards and letters from university coaches and recruiters who want to acquire her services.
"They ask me about my times, distances ... stuff like that," Martinez said.
Although she is acknowledged as one of the budding young stars on the prep sports scene, she hasn't been offered any scholarship incentives because NCAA rules prohibit coaches from approaching high school juniors until July 1.
But once that date rolls around, it'll be Katie-bar-the-door at the Gutierrez home where Martinez resides with her grandparents Frank and Mary. Right now, the inside track may belong to recruiters from a prominent out-of-state school.
"I'd kind of like to go to the University of Southern California but I'm going to talk to other (schools) too," Martinez said.
More honors
The youngster's athletic accomplishments which have been on public display since she was in middle school reached a pinnacle last weekend when she was named to the prestigious All-Arizona Girls Track and Field team.
The team is chosen from schools of all size classifications 1A through 5A which makes the competition extremely tough.
Small-school athletes are rarely named All-Arizona, but Martinez cracked both the first and second teams.
She earned first-team honors in the long jump with an 18-foot, 5-inch leap recorded last spring.
In addition to being a school and personal best, the mark is the longest in the state this year.
A 17-foot, 11-inch effort by Yuma High's Jacqueline Johnson is the closest anyone has come.
As an All-Arizona second-team member, Martinez was acknowledged for her triple jump of 37 feet, 3 inches. She would have been a first-team member had it not been for a spectacular 37-foot, 10-inch leap from Johnson.
The plaudits afforded Martinez as an All-Arizona team member have earned her a fist full of invitations to amateur meets around the country.
One of the most important to her scholarship aspirations will be the state Junior Olympic Championships June 9 and 10 at Glendale College.
If Martinez earns a top-three finish there, she will receive a berth into the Region 10 Championships in Colorado. A top-three finish at regionals, qualifies her for the National Junior Olympic Championships July 25 to July 30 in Buffalo, N.Y.
Reaching the national championships, she said, would be a dream come true.
At Sun Angel Stadium
Martinez picked up invaluable experience for the Junior Olympic gold medal games by accepting an invitation to participate in the Great Southwest Track and Field Classic held Saturday evening on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe.
The event annually draws the best amateur track athletes from Oklahoma, Utah, Nevada, Texas and Arizona.
Although she admittedly had an off night, Martinez jumped her way to silver and bronze medals.
In the triple jump, she picked up a second-place finish with a mark of 37 feet, 9 inches. Edging her out for the gold was a Nevada athlete who recorded at 38-foot, 11-inch mark.
A 17-foot, 10-inch long jump eight inches short of her PR earned her third-place laurels.
With classes in the Payson School District recessed for the summer, Martinez said she is ready to focus her attention on track and field and a long-awaited college scholarship.
"(College is) a year away, but I'm already looking forward to it," she said.

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