NEW HAVEN — A year ago, Travis Martin of Wilbur Cross struggled to reach the top three places in the 1600 and 3200 during the indoor track postseason.
He finished fifth in the 1600 and 10th in the 3200 at the Southern Connecticut Conference meet and a seventh in the 3200 and third in the 1600 at the CIAC Class L meet.
The outdoor season at the SCC meet wasn’t much better with a fifth in the 1600 and he didn’t finish the 3200.
The Class L meet was a little better with a second in the 1600 but he did not qualify and wasn’t seeded for the 3200.
Disappointed with his 2018 performances in the indoor and outdoor seasons, Martin was determined to enter the 2019 indoor season with a renewed focus and determination.
For the first time in his high school career, he dedicated the offseason to training and last summer he put in nearly 400 miles of training.
The hard work has paid off.
“Last summer, for the first time during the summer, I trained and put in a lot of mileage,” Martin said. “Before that I never did any running in the summer at all. It was a big step up for me. But I knew after last season if I wanted to be more competitive, I had to do the extra training to improve and it helped big time.
“I wanted to improve my numbers from last season. The summer mileage was key to this year’s success.”
This season, at the SCC West Sectional meet he won the 3200 (9 minutes, 39.74 seconds) and was a close second in the 1600 (4:27.33). William Curran of Xavier won the 1600 in 4:27.31. At the SCC Championship meet, Martin won the 1600 (4:21.33) and took second in the 3200 (9:28.82).
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Due to a larger boys enrollment at the school, the Governors boys team moved up to Class LL this season. On Saturday at the LL meet, Martin won the 1600 (4:19.79, school record) and was fifth in the 3200 (9:32.60).
“Last year I wanted to break the 4:40 barrier for the mile (1600) and I did 4:30,” Martin said. “This year I wanted to break the 4:20 barrier and I did that at the LL meet. Putting in the extra work and mileage paid off for me and I’m having a big-time season.”
Martin’s success at the LL meet allowed him to qualify for Saturday’s State Open at the Floyd Little Athletic Center. He is the No. 1 seed in the 1600 and seventh seed in the 3200.
“Travis did a lot of work in the summer but he has actually been training for this moment since last spring,” Wilbur Cross boys and girls track coach Travis Gale said. “He’s been listening to the coaches. He has a great drive, he’s a great student athlete and he studies the sport. Mechanically, he has a good head on his shoulders.
“Communication is another key between us. I push Travis and the other seniors as much as I do any freshman. Yes, the summer training helped Travis. Yes, he has bought in to what the coaches have been telling him. And yes, he is very coachable. But now he continues to do the extra work beyond what he did in the summer. At practice he’ll stay a little longer to put in that extra mile of training and the extra work has helped him.”
Growing up, Martin always loved sports. He loved to go bowling and he was a goalie playing youth hockey. But when Martin was a freshman at Wilbur Cross, he wanted to try something different and tried out for the Governors’ track team.
“As a freshman, I tried the sprint events,” Martin said. “But I didn’t have the leg speed for it and I didn’t like it. I did my best running in the distance races and it’s where I performed the best. For me, I never want to disappoint myself and that motivated me to improve on the track. For me, race day is what it’s all about.
“I’m always nervous before a race. But when the gun goes off, there is no second guessing myself and I just go for it.”
The key for Martin is his late kick.
“Getting a strong start is important,” Martin said. “The middle part of the race you use your endurance to stay with the leaders to be in good position. But kicking at the end is the big thing for me.
“There is nothing that raises the level of adrenalin like a sprint kick at the end. There is nothing cooler than using a late kick, taking the lead and hearing all the people scream for you at the end of the race.”
Watching Martin develop has been fun for Gale.
“When Travis first came in as a freshman, he never competed in track,” Gale said. “I’ve been doing this (coaching) for seven years and he has developed into my best distance runner. It’s fun for me as a coach to see how he has grown from that freshman season to now, to see how much confidence he has on the track.”
The immediate focus for Martin is to win the 1600 and 3200 at the State Open and to succeed in the events in the outdoor season. But Martin’s success has allowed him to take his talent to the next level and he will compete for Trinity College.
It should be noted that the Governors will have other standouts in the boys and girls State Open with Susie Okoli in the shot put, Grace Adolphe in the 1000, Mahammed Hussain in the boys 1000 and Caleb Owen in the boys 300.