ORANGE — He definitely took a different path to get there, but Orange's Jaime Martinez arrived this season as the county's most dominant track and field athlete.
The senior, who began his distance running career in his sophomore year, is The Times Orange County boys' track and field athlete of the year.
Martinez swept through the Orange County Championships and Century League meets, winning the 1,500- and 3,000-meter races in the former and the 1,600 and 3,200 in the latter.
The Panther athlete didn't lose to a county athlete at any distance this season. Martinez had the same record against county competition during cross-country last fall, earning athlete of the year honors in that sport as well.
A soccer player who wasn't having much success on the field, Martinez asked Orange track and field Coach Lanny Carter for a tryout in February, 1992. Two years later, Martinez is a veteran of two Kinney National Cross-Country teams and twice has finished among the top five in the 3,200 at the State meet.
Martinez began his assault on the record books by breaking the meet record in the 3,000 at the Orange County Championships on April 23. He raced alone nearly the entire distance, finishing in 8 minutes 38.64 seconds.
The time completed a winning double for Martinez, who also won the 1,500 in 3:56.89. That time bested the next-best runner in the field by more than eight seconds.
Two weeks earlier at the Arcadia Invitational, one of the nation's elite events, Martinez ran a then-personal best 4:14.47 to finish seventh in the 1,600.
Martinez maintained his perch atop the list of the county's best marks in the 3,200 from the first race of his senior season until the last.
The recipient of the first Earl Engman Memorial Scholarship for academic and athletics achievement, Martinez also was named Orange High School's athlete of the year.
Martinez won the 3,200 (9:13.77) at the Southern Section Division I finals and finished third in the 1,600 in a personal-best 4:14.01. However, he decided to drop the shorter distance and concentrate on the two-mile race at the Masters Meet.
The strategy paid off as Martinez clocked a personal-best 9:06.08 to win and advance to the State finals, where he finished fifth in 9:06.94.
"I have never had a youngster like him," Carter said. "I wouldn't trade him for anything."
Martinez will attend Azusa Pacific this fall.