Widefield's Maximilliano Martinez looks forward to running (with shoes) for Colorado State

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Photo - Widefield's Maximilliano Martinez sprints to a second place finish in the boys division 1 race at the Cougar Classic Invitational cross country meet Thursday, September 24, 2015 in Monument Valley Park. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Widefield's Maximilliano Martinez sprints to a second place finish in the boys division 1 race at the Cougar Classic Invitational cross country meet Thursday, September 24, 2015 in Monument Valley Park. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

Widefield's Maximilliano Martinez once lost his shoe in the opening 100 meters of a 5-kilometer race - and then was trampled by a field of runners while trying to retrieve it.

The Gladiators' distance king has had his fair share of turbulence during a distinguished high school career. But with every slip, fall and injury, he's continued to push through.

It's helped move along an entire program in the process.

"My coach has been saying to me lately, 'Max, what is your legacy? What do you want your teammates to remember about you?'" said the senior, who signed his letter of intent to run cross country and track at Colorado State on Wednesday morning.

"My legacy, I think," he said before a long pause, "is just one more rep."

A year ago, Martinez ran the last 4,900 meters of the Englewood Windjammer Invitational bloodied and with one shoe.

The fear of injury wouldn't stop him, even with regional and state meets fast approaching.

Neither did his coach's plea.

"He inspired his teammates," Widefield cross country coach Erik Nelson said. "Seeing him kind of put wind back in their sails because he's their leader."

Martinez went through creeks and assorted rock beds, passing each of his teammates along the way that day.

He finished fifth and was barely able to stand.

"I'm just running and then out of nowhere he passes me with one shoe, and I'm like 'what the heck?" Widefield junior Cole Munoz said. "I can't even imagine, geeze."

Martinez has always found success in leading the Gladiators, who finished a program-best second at the 4A state cross country meet in the fall.

It's his lack of a state title that has frustrated him.

Martinez finished fourth at the 4A state cross country meet as a sophomore, then took third his final two fall seasons.

This spring, in track, will be his final chance at gold. He's admitted to putting too much pressure on himself.

"This last weekend I had a bad two-mile race and I was hanging my head more than I should, feeling every injury and making it seem like it was bigger than it was," said Martinez, who is dealing with a nagging Achilles injury. "Very pessimistic."

Since then, he said a long conversation with his parents has helped him lighten up. And his coach continued to remind him not to lose sight of the bigger picture.

"I have so much to look forward to, so much to be grateful and thankful for," Martinez said. "They, and like my coach, have helped me come back to reality and keep me grounded, and re-lift up my spirits."

Martinez officially became a Ram on Wednesday thanks in part to a Colorado State-Widefield connection.

Turns out CSU assistant track and cross country coach Scott Dahlberg is the son of former Widefield track coach Gregg Dahlberg, who coached Nelson in the mid-90s.

Martinez committed in November. He also had interest from Portland, Nebraska and Western State.

"Everything worked out perfectly," Nelson said.

Almost.

Martinez said he still has to finish what he started at Widefield four years ago.

"I want to finish hard, have fun and stay healthy," he said.

Doing so with both shoes on would be a plus.