By Claire Salinas
Jada Martin has had an impressive freshman season on the LSU track and field team. She ended the year on a high note by striking gold on the 4×100-meter relay team and placing fifth in the 200-meter final at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. this past weekend.
Although Martin had competed at an international meet before she had never competed in one of this caliber.
“I had done a small international meet before,” said Martin, “but it wasn’t like this one. There were 112 countries there.”
Martin had no plans to compete internationally, but her impressive run times were enough for LSU track and field coach Dennis Shaver to warn her that it could happen.
“Competing internationally didn’t really cross my mind,” she explained. “I mean once I got here, coach Shaver brought up that I had a good chance at making the World Team with the times I was running.”
Martin’s high hopes began to fade in the middle of the season when she faced an injury that forced her to take a step back.
“I had an injury so I wasn’t running a lot of races,” Martin recalled. “When I got to the [World Team] trials I was nervous and I wasn’t sure if I would make the team.”
Martin’s injuries did not impair her abilities though and she ended up placing fifth at the U.S. trials in the 100-meter dash. The result ensured her a place on the World Team, and positioned her to run the 200-meter dash in the World Junior Championships.
The competition weekend started off with Shaver getting Martin out of her comfort zone by changing her starting position.
“I was very nervous getting into the blocks because normally I’m an inside curve runner and it makes my 200 easier when I feel like I’m running the inside lanes,” Martins said. “This way I can gauge myself in a race, versus faster people coming up behind me while I try to stay composed, relaxed and continue sprinting. I prefer to be in the second block, but Coach Shaver preferred me to be in seven.”
Martin didn’t allow the change in routine to negatively affect her performance though, and she ended up placing fifth in the competition on Friday.
Following her individual performance, she was then chosen to run the third leg of the 4×100-meter relay to be held on Saturday.
“I felt like there was good team chemistry because at this point everyone on the team is borderline professional,” she explained. “They weren’t asking, ‘What do we do?’ they were asking, ‘How do you do it?’”
That camaraderie proved to be just enough, as Martin and the United States team won the relay by a little over half a second compared to the silver medalist Jamaican team. Upon their victory each team member was wrapped in the flag of their country and released to take a victory lap around the track.
“It was so fun to wear the flag and experience the victory lap,” Martin recalled of the post-race celebrations. “We each got our own flag, but we ran the lap as a team.”
Martin, like many typical professional athletes, had her victory overshadowed with thoughts of how she could’ve done better. Overall, she felt that she and her teammates ended the season well.
“A lot of us didn’t finish how we wanted to finish in the meet,” she said. “I think we shared that same emotion. It was the last meet of the season though and we ended it on a really good note.”