Abraham Avila-Martinez talks after a runner-up finish at the Southlake Invitational
Each year, thousands of girls and boys participate in Texas high school cross country. Some become good enough to get themselves to the state meet and others don't.
These thousands of runners are in each of the Texas high school leagues - Home School, SPC, TAPPS, and UIL. However, the ones that become the state's best and even the best nationally are very few compared to the many others who are working just as hard to improve as they are.
That is what cross country is all about. Even if athletes are not elite, the goal is to try to make the varsity squad on their team, some athletes try for four years to race at the varsity level. Practicing at 6:00 a.m. or after school in the Texas heat, athletes make sacrifices by running many miles in some of the toughest conditions fathomable. The ultimate goal is to get better and PR. Personal records (PR) or personal bests (PB) are everything to runners and what it takes to achieve them is nothing minimal.
Martinez was one of thousands of runners who ran in pretty much obscurity. They were runners without names that people recognized. He started his junior season with PRs of 2:05.78 (800m), 4:31.89 (1600m), 10:05.36 (3200M), and 17:07 (XC 5K).
While going through his junior cross country season, he realized he had to do something if he wanted to earn a scholarship for college.
Martinez reached out to Paul Carozza, the head coach of Born To Run running club. Carozza was coaching some of the top runners in the area. He had the likes of Travis Dowd (Rice) , Cameron Kleiman (MIT), Yaseen Abdalla (Texas), and his own even his own son Crayton Carrozza (Texas) who are all freshmen this season in college.
"I'm really confident, I feel like I can go to almost any race and be up with the leaders and probably have a good finish."
Abraham Avila-Martinez - Austin San Juan Diego
Martinez wanted what all of those young men were experiencing, success. He contacted Carozza about coaching him after he completed high school. Martinez thought he would not run well enough before graduation to earn a scholarship. With extra coaching after high school post high school, he figured he'd have a chance to earn money for college.
The two would have the opportunity to connect sooner and the results would be life changing. Martinez would eventually get the chance to train with the guys who's successes he looked up to.
Martinez began to see his times drop by leaps and bounds during track season. He would lower his times to 4:20.04 and 9:17.83. After not breaking 10:05 ever in his career, last year he didn't run one race over 10:00. His slowest time of the year was his first race in 9:51 and from there he would run seven races 9:34 and better.
By the end of the year, his resume had included a sixth place finish at Texas Relays, a race he dared dream about even qualifying for. He ended the season on a promising note with two TAPPS state championships and a TTFCA championship.
After proving himself on the track, Martinez entered the 2019 cross country season with questions. Would he be able to transform his improvement on the track into the cross country season?
Those questions were quickly answered. In the first meet of the season, Martinez ran a great race at Friday Night Lights. He ran a 12:32 for a third place finish. The only runners to beat him was a UIL 6A state champ and another UIL runner who qualified for NXN.
From there, he finished sixth at Marcus I Invitational in 15:24, second at Southlake Carroll Invitational in 15:26, and this past weekend, he won the Moulton Invitational in a new PR 15:16. "It feels so good to know that my track times converted to my cross country times because throughout my four years in high school I never had a good cross country season," Martinez said.
Since his freshman year, Martinez has made the second best jump to now. He has improved his 5K time by nearly two minutes. All of this has raised his confidence level by leaps and bounds, "I'm really confident, I feel like I can go to almost any race and be up with the leaders and probably have a good finish."