Noelle Walker with NBC 5 News came to Legacy to interview Grant and Coach Barrett Hardage about his incredible experience.
Grant Martinez, a senior at Legacy Christian Academy, is an incomparable athlete. This fall, he enjoyed a successful cross-country season. And then there was track.
He entered the TAPPS 5A Track State Championship on May 6, in Waco, with high expectations of winning the individual state title, having qualified as the first seed in the highly anticipated 1600-meter race. He walked to the starting line, just four short laps away from clinching the coveted individual state title.
The race started well for Grant, who charged out to first place, then settled in behind one of the fastest runners in the nation, with whom he had been competing for the past two years. In lap two, approximately three-quarters of the way through it, Grant knew something was off. “I was running and feeling great,” he says, “and all of a sudden, my left shoe felt loose and I looked down and saw that it had come untied. I felt it slipping off my foot. I was trying harder to keep it on than to continue running with a good stride. I began falling back and the guy behind me started moving up, so I went back to my normal running form, and my shoe flew off.
You would never have known it. He didn’t miss a step. He didn’t even flinch.
Grant ran the rest of the race with only one track spike on his right foot and a thin sock on his left foot. “It felt very awkward,” he says, “and since I had no spikes pushing me through the ground, I really lost my step in the race.”
Grant's character was fully demonstrated in what followed next, as he was determined, resilient, and unstoppable. Fighting through the pain and discomfort of a blistered and bloody foot, he slowly fell back from second, to third, to fourth but didn’t stop, didn’t waver, didn’t even point at his foot in frustration. He kept running as hard as he could, fighting all the way to the finish line. “No part in me was going to stop,” he says, “but I knew it was going to make the race pretty hard.”
Recalls Head Track Coach Barrett Hardage, “It was the biggest race of his life. Disaster struck with more than half of the race to go, but the idea that Grant would do anything but keep going and leave it all out there didn’t enter my mind.” A look of pride washed over Coach Hardage’s face: “It was the gutsiest performance I’ve seen in my twenty-two years of coaching.”
Only after he collapsed in pain at the end of the race did it become apparent to everyone that Grant had been running more than half the race on a foot covered only in a thin sock, in the most competitive division in Texas. His badly injured foot required immediate medical attention, but he had delivered a tremendous result — just four seconds off his personal best, with a time of 4:28:16.
Grant’s indomitable will pushed him through to the finish line. Despite the devastating setback, the experience was transformative. “After the race,” he says, “all I could think about was the disappointment of coming in fourth after focusing on winning this race all season, but the support from my coach, my family, and my friends really helped me understand the value of what had happened.”
Grant is in 3rd place as he rounds the corner and loses his shoe between the 1:52-1:53 mark.
Grant’s strength, endurance, and fortitude in a time of distress and pain are the qualities of a true champion. He represented his family, his school, and his state with poise and determination. The story of Grant Martinez’s race is a testament to the power of perseverance and the human spirit. Although he didn’t win the gold in the 1600, Grant won the hearts of all who had witnessed his remarkable feat.
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