by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Joey Martin’s senior year started with a leg injury that wiped out his cross country season, but the Elk River senior kept a positive and productive attitude that has paid off with an excellent Nordic Ski season.
The 6-foot-1, 160-pound Martin rose to the occasion in all the big meets this year with fourth-place finish in the Mesabi Invitational, fifth in a formidable field at conference, and then second at sectionals.
“Everything was perfect,” Martin reflected, about his section race on Feb. 6 at Theodore Wirth Park. “I couldn’t have asked for more. I got focused and did what I needed to do. I was the second-best returning skier from last year, and I knew a couple other guys were sick last year, so I was hoping for top three.”
Martin made all-conference three times, starting in 10th grade with a 22nd-place finish. He was 23rd at sectional that year. As a junior he was sixth in the conference, fifth in the section and 44th at state.
“My goal this year is making all-state,” he said, meaning a top-25 finish. Martin was able to reach that goal. He competed in his second state meet on Thursday and placed 22nd.
In cross country, Martin was the No. 7 runner as a junior on a team that won sectionals and placed 14th at state. He was expected to be one of the leaders this year, but trouble in his right leg emerged shortly before the first meet. He had to cut short a training run with teammates because “the pain was so intense.” An MRI that revealed a stress fracture in his femur and he knew he’d miss the season.
While waiting for his leg to heal, Martin made the best of his time as he prepped with upper-body weight lifting, swimming, biking, and finally roller-skating as soon as he was able. Once the snow fell, he was a couple weeks behind in the drills but caught up quickly.
“Joey did not miss a beat,” said coach Kirsten Anderson. “He has been very focused and got everything done he needed to.”
The coach was elated to see Martin being himself again.
“He is such a fluid skier,” she said. “As soon as he gets to the line he’s relaxed and always ready to go,”
Martin came out for Nordic in ninth grade, coaxed by longtime buddy Breck Hickman, who has also qualified for state the last two years. “Breck and I did a lot of downhill together,” said Martin. “He started Nordic before me, and he told me I had to do it. Once I got better at it, I started to enjoy it more and more.”
Last year, Martin and Hickman went to state as the third and fourth skiers behind seniors Jake Schroeder and Nate Webster on a team that was ranked fourth in the state, won the conference title and took second at section behind top-ranked Eden Prairie.
The Elks are not quite as strong this year but placed fourth in conference and third in section. Martin saluted Schroeder and Webster for “pulling up Breck and me” last year, and made sure they did the same this year for the third and fourth runners, Karl Gorecki and Dan Janasz.
Martin, a three-sport athlete — he shot in the low 80′s on the golf team last year — intends to continue skiing on a college club team.
THE MARTIN SCORECARD
Personal file — Age: 18 … Family: parents Paul and Mary; sister Morgan … Sports: Nordic Ski, cross country, golf … Other activities: National Honor Society … Grades: 3.8 GPA … College plans: probably North Dakota State, sports medicine, Nordic club team
Favorite stuff — Classes: Anatomy, Physics … TV show: “Breaking Bad” … Music: country, pop, especially Luke Bryan … Food: chicken alfredo … Drink: chocolate milk … Team: Vikings, Gopher hockey … Athletes: Petter Northug, Jessie Diggins … Kickback activities: hunting, fishing … Wants to visit: “Colorado, for the skiing.”