Jaime Martinez closed out his high school career Saturday with one of his best personal performances in the 3,200 meters at the State track and field championships.
Although his time of 9 minutes 6.94 seconds was impressive for the Orange senior, it earned him only a fifth-place finish.
“It was tough. I had a couple of fast laps,” Martinez said, “but that is all I had for today.”
Martinez began the race with the pack, but broke into the lead at the end of the second lap. He kept the lead until the halfway mark, where he fell back into second behind the state’s best distance runner, San Diego High’s Mebrathom Keflezighi. From there, he fell farther back.
“I wanted to keep pace with him (Keflezighi),” Martinez said. “I just kept pushing, but it wasn’t enough.”
Keflezighi, who also won the 1,600, outdistanced the field, finishing in 8:58.11. Martinez has beaten Keflezighi only once, last year at the Canyon Regionals.
“He is definitely one of the best,” Martinez said. “But I have to race at Golden West next and the guys get faster as the season goes on.”
Orange Coach Lanny Carter wanted Martinez to keep up with Keflezighi in hopes of catching him on the final laps, but as Keflezighi pulled away from the pack, Martinez fell farther back.
“I’m very proud of him,” Carter said. “He went out to win, but the pace he tried to keep may have cost him a second-place finish. I think he was nervous before the start of the race.”
Martinez, who won the Earl Engman Scholarship Fund last week at the Masters Meet, also was voted Orange High School’s athlete of the year and will compete at Azusa Pacific next year.
“I’d like to win a national championship,” Martinez said. “Anything is possible.”
In his career at Orange, Martinez has picked up quite a following. Kids from the neighborhood and surrounding schools come to watch him race and to get his autograph.
“I have never had a youngster like him,” Carter said. “I wouldn’t trade him for anything.”