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May 31—Her coach calls her the “face of the franchise.”

East High School junior Leyah Martinez is quickly becoming a household name on the track.

A hurdler, sprinter and long jumper, Martinez went to state as a freshman in both the 100 and 300 hurdles, finishing eighth in both. This season, her goals are much higher as she’s added the sprints and long jump to her repertoire.

She’s hoping to qualify for state in three, possibly four events, both hurdles and the 100 or 200 meters and long jump.

“For both hurdles, I just know if those girls who are top ranked keep pushing me I can stay with them,” Martinez said. “Hopefully, at least top three or state runner-up or state champ.”

She ran the 100 for the first time in her career this past Thursday at a five-team meet at the Dutch Clark Stadium, winning in a time of 12.98. That thrust her into the No. 17 spot in the state rankings. She’s ranked fourth in the 100 hurdles and fifth in the 300 hurdles.

“I’m more used to hitting steps,” she said of running the 100 for the first time. “In the 100, you don’t have time to make up at all. If you mess up at all, you can’t recover from that. It’s straight and using your arms and legs and just going as fast as you can.”

East coach Tony Valdez has strong praise fo Martinez on and off the track.

“She’s the face of the franchise,” Valdez said. “With Leyah, that’s what we want. She’s extremely motivated, extremely hard working, pays attention to detail and coachable. Put put those together and you have a very good athlete.

“Plus she is great in the classroom and the carryover value of that is immeasurable.”

Martinez constantly works on her technique.

“My technique is far from perfect,” she said. “I just want to keep on improving year by year.”

Her best event?

“Hurdles,” she said. “I thought I’d be stronger at 300 hurdles than 100 hurdles but I set a personal best in the 100 at our second meet.. My best time (in the 100) is 15.34 seconds.

“It’s really satisfying. (My personal best) was at a meet where no one was next to me, so I didn’t feel as pushed. I focused on my steps and worked on my form instead of running fast in between the hurdles.”

Valdez believes Martinez’s work ethic gives her a leg up on other athletes.

“For her to practice every day provides a lot of challenges,” he said. “To do high-speed hurdling without other girls pushing her is difficult.

“She’s super athletic and very intelligent. She’s already made her marks in the hurdles and the spring and has made her mark in the long jump. Doing all those events proves what a great athlete she is.”

Martinez swam for the Eagles and has played club soccer and is thinking about playing soccer next fall.

Her ambition is to run in college.

“I like the Division II colleges in Colorado like UC-Colorado Springs, Colorado State University Pueblo and Colorado Mesa. “They have really good programs and UCCS has strong hurdle programs. It would be nice to be a part of that.”

Chieftain senior sports reporter Jeff Letofsky can be reached by email at or on Twitter @jeffletofsky