Jemir Martinez recognized the names and faces from television.
The former Greenbrier High School track standout earned the right to mingle with some of the top sprinters in the world and stood shoulder to shoulder with those he grew up idolizing.
Martinez's opportunity came by competing this past Friday in the USA Junior National Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.
"It was just crazy just being there with them," Martinez said. "I see them on TV all the time. And I was standing right across from them."
Martinez qualified for junior nationals after twice breaking the Kennesaw State University 100-meter record as a freshman.
He first set the record at Clemson early in the year, and then broke his own mark at the Atlantic Sun Conference Championships on May 15 with a 10.66, good enough to qualify for nationals.
Martinez said his goal at junior nationals was to go faster than that. He ran a 10.81 and finished 12th.
The junior nationals were taking place the same weekend and location as the USA Nationals, creating the opportunity for the young sprinters to meet some of the sport's top names. While there, Martinez met the likes of Tyson Gay and Michael Johnson, posed for pictures and had athletes sign his meet credential. The sightings were further fuel for Martinez to return in 2010 and to try to improve his finish.
Martinez said he was familiar with the sprinters he ran against. He recognized most of them from high-level high school meets such as the Taco Bell Classic in Columbia, S.C.
"I've basically seen all of them in high school," he said. "All of us have gotten faster."
Martinez's freshman season is now done. He was told by Kennesaw State coach Devin West to take a short break before resuming practice and workouts in preparation for next year.
"I've just been working hard this whole year," Martinez said. "Hard work paid off when I qualified to go to nationals. Next year I'm going to work even harder to get back there."
Martinez earned a scholarship to run at Kennesaw State after picking up sprinting as a Greenbrier sophomore. Martinez went out for the team and immediately clocked its third-fastest time. He missed much of that season with a quadriceps injury, which caused him to miss the region and state meets that year.
His times during the next two years attracted the attention of the Owls, and Martinez signed in April 2008.
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