A few days before his latest batch of standouts went to Austin for their shot at glory, North coach Homer Martinez reflected on some of the greats that have come before.
“I think with Beth and Tristan, you’re talking about two of the best, certainly in the program and also in the Valley, all-time,” said Martinez, who should know. Having coached cross country and distance runners in town since the mid-1970s, the Falfurrias native has seen them come and go.
And in Beth Ramos and Tristan Pena, who competed at the state cross country meet last week, Martinez saw the mark of potential right off.
“Beth, well, what can you say about her, she is such a hard worker, so smart and tough,” Martinez explained. “And when you consider all she has done, setting records, going to state multiple times, and that she has never once been 100 percent during her career, because of injuries.”
Truly, after a freshman year injury in soccer the gifted runner has had to gut it out, as the lingering effects were at times drastic. Ramos ran a strong 11th in the state Saturday.
“But here is a kid who never takes a day off, she puts in the work it takes to be the best,” Martinez continued. “I cannot say enough to compliment her on how she has been dedicated to being a champion runner.”
As for Pena, Martinez noted that during the former’s first season, he had the makings of a star.
“With many kids, it takes some time to realize what they need to do, what they can do,” Martinez commented. “Running is about pain, about pushing yourself, and being able to accept the challenge of doing the work. Part of it is physical but it’s also partly mental toughness. Tristan now does what he needs to do, he has matured and really shown his potential, and I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Pena came 29th in the state Saturday. Now each of the Cougar luminaries will take a place in the pantheon of greats, alongside girls’ legends Sonia Sepulveda and Laura Vazquez and boys’ stars Joe Medina, Richard Iracheta, and Omar Doria, to name a few.
Martinez has coached four state champs and taken numerous teams to regionals and some to state; in his illustrious career at EHS and now North, he has always searched for the kids who are willing to sacrifice, are able to handle the pain, and to keep on working.
“With Beth, she has maintained a No. 2 ranking in her class and dealt with the injuries,” he said. “Tristan woke up one day and he was ready to take the next step. He set records as a freshman and then he eventually got to the point where he understood what comes next, the things he had to do to set himself apart from the rest.”
The coach also notes that in today’s world, there are more distractions than there used to be, making it harder for athletes to reach that next level of excellence.
“When I was in high school, we didn’t have cell phones obviously,” he chuckled. “And the school itself wasn’t air conditioned. We weren’t sitting around home on the couch either … heck, many of us didn’t even have couches. We were outside all day and it made it easier – looking back, I can see that now – to be in shape. I used to walk to school, three miles, so yes, nowadays you have to overcome that aspect.”
He continues to try and get the best out of his charges, and last week’s appearance at state has just added to the fine legacy of performance in local track and field.
“I am looking for the kids who have the passion to do this, and it’s not for everyone,” Martinez concluded. “I had that passion and I still do, which is one of the reasons I continue to coach, to be able to get lucky enough to help athletes like Beth and Tristan be the best they can possibly be.”
VOLLEY POSTSEASON A QUICK ONE
The going was rough for the city girls in bi-district, as all three volleyball squads went down on the road against 32-6A foes.
North was the first to fall, as the Lady Coogs were swept Monday by league champ Brownsville Rivera, but the sets were all close, especially the opener (27-25). Belying the experts who predicted a rout, North fought to 19 and 22 points in the last two sets, making a fair account after having to capture a play-in match with P-SJ-A to qualify as the fourth seed from 31-6A.
Also Monday, EHS expired at Los Fresnos, winning one set, the third, to drop from the playoff party. Vela was the city’s last hope but the Lady SaberCats were defeated Tuesday by the Lady Greyhounds of San Benito in four. Vela took the second set and had a lead in the third before faltering.