Martinelli Paves Way for In-State Women’s Track Stars to Succeed at WVU
Matt Hauswirth, MORGANTOWN -
The state of West Virginia may not be known for its high school track and field athletes.
Sarah Martinelli is changing that.
“I was very emotional,” Martinelli said, referring to her top 12 finish at the NCAA East Regional in Jacksonville, Florida last week. “I burst into tears and I was just so excited. It was just a huge relief. I was emotional that whole week leading up to regionals – just not sure if that was going to be my last race or not. Thankfully it wasn’t. But I was so excited. I gave [Head Coach] Sean [Cleary] a big hug.”
Martinelli, a former UniversityHigh School standout in Morgantown, is one of three West VirginiaUniversity women’s track and field athletes preparing to run at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon this week. Martinelli is joined alongside Allison Lasnicki and Stormy Nesbit in representing the Mountaineers.
“By virtue of qualifying for the final championships, they’re already, at least at this point, guaranteed All-American status, whether it’s [finishing] one or two – first team or second team,” WVU Women’s Track and Field Head Coach Sean Cleary said. “I just want them to go out there and soak up the experience and enjoy what is probably going to be the finest athletic experience of their lives. Those three young ladies – really, they’re in the best shape of their lives right now. So we expect big things.”
Martinelli will take part in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, while Lasnicki will compete in the 10,000-meter run and Nesbit will challenge for a title in the triple jump.
However, Martinelli had a bit of a different path to the National Championships than her two teammates.
She was what you would technically call a ‘walk-on’ – or in other words, an under recruited athlete.
“Sarah Martinelli, five years ago, was a walk-on into the program and is graduating as an All-American,” Cleary explained. “It’s a tribute to fantastic high school coaching in the area, a good club system in the area and fantastic parents.”
“I was thinking about it and I think I’m the first girl from UHS to go to Nationals,” Martinelli said with a smile. “So that’s a huge honor. It’s really reflective of my coach and how much he put in to me – now Sean [Cleary] putting more time and effort in to me. I’m very grateful and honored to go and represent Morgantown at nationals.”
Representing the City of Morgantown on Track and Field’s biggest collegiate stage is a giant step in the right direction. But as Cleary explained, Morgantown has collectively become a running-friendly community, helping develop Division-I athletes across the area.
“It’s a distance running community,” Cleary said. “When I first moved here, there was no rail trail. It was actually quite dangerous to run in Morgantown. Now it’s a great place to be, especially for these young women in this town. We sort of here at WVU have a reputation around the country of helping these local girls and giving them chances and giving them opportunities, statewide also, and putting them in the national finals.”
As Martinelli prepares to exit the Mountaineer program, another University High standout will enter. Amelia Paladino has set West Virginia High School State Records almost every year as a Lady Hawk. Paladino recently chose to take her talents down the road to WVU.
“I got to talk to her when she came here on her recruiting trip. I just wanted to comfort her and tell her it’s okay to come to a school that’s in your hometown,” Martinelli shared with a laugh. “But since then, I haven’t gotten to talk to her too much. I’ve been following her running, obviously, and am so excited that she’s coming here next year. I think she will definitely be a great addition to this program. I’m excited to see how well she does.”
The future is bright for Paladino and the Mountaineer program. But in terms of the present, Martinelli, along with Lasnicki and Nesbit, still have work to do.
Martinelli will race in the 3,000-meter steeplechase semifinals on Wednesday, June 11th at , ET. Lasnicki will take part in the 10,000-meter run on Thursday, June 12th at , ET. Meanwhile, Nesbit will compete in the triple jump on Friday, June 13th at , ET.
The entire 2014 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships can be seen at ESPN3.com.