Belize’s Kaina Martinez delivers epic performance at 2017 NCAA Track & Field Championships
BELIZE CITY, Mon. May 29, 2017–Belizeans’ hearts swelled with pride on Saturday when the news slowly filtered in that our own Kaina Martinez had medaled in her first two events for the Texas A&M University, Kingsville team at the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association in the United States) Track & Field Championships in Bradenton, Florida. Kaina and her TAMU Kingsville teammates placed third in the 4×100 meter relay; and she followed that up with an electrifying second place in the 100 meter dash.
After languishing in Belize for the best part of her youthful athletic career, Kaina landed a full athletic scholarship to Texas A&M University, Kingsville in 2013, thanks to the efforts of Belize’s former Olympian, Colin Thurton, then an athletic coach at A&M. Graduating in June of this year, this was Kaina’s farewell performance for her college, and her biggest stage in years, having missed the 2016 Olympic Games.
To fully appreciate the enormity of Kaina’s achievement, one has to understand that simply to reach the finals of the NCAA tournament is a major milestone. All the best student athletes of over a hundred US colleges, who had qualified under strict time standards at competitive meets during the course of the previous year, converged at Bradenton, Florida for the preliminary rounds of the NCAA Track & Field Championships on Thursday and Friday of last week. 14 relay teams participated in two heats on Thursday, with the best 8 going forward to the finals on Saturday. There were 3 heats including 23 runners for the 100m dash, and Kaina had the best qualifying time (11.46), to be one of the 8 finalists in Saturday’s 100m race. On Friday, the 200m also involved 3 heats, as 22 runners were whittled down to 8 finalists for Saturday’s championship run; and Kaina was among them.
In sprint events, every inch counts, and a bad start can be the difference between a victory and a last place finish. When the best of the best clash for the title of fastest, it comes down to small fractions of a second. To make it to the top 8 in the nation says something; and Belize’s Kaina Martinez, carrying the hopes of Texas A&M Kingsville on her shoulders, made it to the top 8 in each of the three events that she had qualified to represent her school in. In the 4x100m relay finals, her team was third in 44.98; she then placed second in the 100m finals in 11.58; and in the 200m, she finished seventh in a time of 24.1 seconds. In the end, the total of 16 points put her college in 17th place among 112 colleges in the female division of the NCAA Division II. And Kaina figured in every one of those 16 points, garnering 6 points with the relay team for its third place; 8 points for her second place finish in the 100m; and 2 points for her seventh place in the 200m final.
Congratulations and a motorcade are in order for Belize’s fastest woman and 3-time All American, Kaina Martinez!
(Sports Ed. Note: Kaina’s three sprint finals – 4x100m relay, 100m and 200m – all occurred within a span of two and a half hours on Saturday. “Imagine the possibilities” if she could have focused all her training and energy on one event only, the 100m, at last year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The burning question remains among sports fans – why wasn’t Kaina representing Belize at the Olympics in Rio?)