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Track and field: Erie’s Marco Martinez part of three generations of champions

Tigers’ 800-meter relay helped continue family’s in-state prowess


Erie junior Marco Martinez hopes his state title-winning 4×200 relay can run it back next spring. All four sprinters squished atop of the podium at the track and field championships last month are expected to return next spring.

John (left), Marco (center), and Jeff (right) Martinez pose following Marco's state championship in late May.
Photo provided by Jeff Martinez
John (left), Marco (center), and Jeff (right) Martinez pose following Marco’s state championship in late May.

More gold to be had, Marco hopes.

But for the recently turned 17-year-old, the victory lap on the track stretches far longer than his May victory. Championships, in this sport, in his running-infused family, are something of a right of bloodline.

From generation to generation, Marco’s win in the Class 4A 800 relay at Jefferson County Stadium on May 21 followed in the footsteps of his father, and grandfather before, right into Colorado track and field lore.

“It was great,” John Martinez, Marco’s 78-year-old grandpa, said. “It kind of brought me back to when I was running and when I won my state title. There was a lot of excitement.”

John Martinez was a standout distance runner in the 1960s, where he won his first high school state championship at Weld Central High School in ’61 while running the mile. He later became the first track and field All-American at Southern Colorado State, now called CSU-Pueblo.

Two decades later, his son Jeff, who is Marco’s dad, won his first of three golds in the high jump at Brighton High School in ’85. His mark of 7 feet, 2 inches in the event remains the state record in the 5A classification. He later jumped 7-3 while at CSU-Pueblo.

For both, their start in the sport came alongside their siblings while at the local track. John got into distance running with his brothers and sisters in the 50s and 60s. Jeff, 54, meanwhile said the track might have well been he and his brothers’ playground growing up. They fell in love with jumps while their father was coaching.

“My dad initially had us running distance races,” Jeff said. “And I think my brothers and I realized being at the track, it was more fun doing long jump, high jump, triple jump, pole vault. So, my brothers and I were all field event guys, basically.”

Jeff went on to win three national championships at CSU-Pueblo after his dad had won two at the school. Today, both are in the university’s hall of fame and are still coaching track and field.

Jeff said some around the sport have told them they’re the only father-son duo in the country to ever win multiple college championships in the same sport while getting inducted into the same hall of fame. Following all of that isn’t easy, Marco admitted.

“Obviously I’ll try to work as hard as I can. It is a pretty lofty achievement to try and become a national champion,” he said. “But another thing my dad preached to me, and my entire family really, is academics will take you further now than sports will. Even though I can be a great athlete, the focus is on academics and a successful life otherwise.”

Marco is studying aerospace engineering at Erie. His dad said he’s also training to become a decathlete, which takes part in 10 events, something Jeff credits to his son’s speed and athleticism.

After Marco’s championship in May, grandpa, father and son posed for a picture together at JeffCo Stadium. Jeff posted it on Twitter this past week.