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The Day's All-Area Girls' Indoor Track & Field Athlete of the Year: NFA's Paige Martin

Paige Martin has been a hyperkinetic bundle of energy since birth.

Example: she broke her crib.

With her head.

While sleeping.

“When I was asleep, I would bang my head on the crib,” Martin said with a laugh. “I had a huge bruise on the back of my head but I think I turned out fine.”

Sports has been a great outlet for Martin’s zest, in particular pole vaulting. The Norwich Free Academy senior dropped all other sports after falling in love with it and has become the state’s best at it, setting the State Open record for the second straight season.

Martin was an easy choice for The Day’s 2020 All-Area Indoor Girls’ Track & Field Athlete of the Year honor.

“The way she presents is pretty much the way she is,” NFA coach Tom Teixeira said. “She’s very enthusiastic and does a nice job of being present, whether it be in the classroom or competing. She just really, really likes the sport.”

Martin, who recently gave a verbal commitment to Boston University, is one of four children and a triplet. She and Maddie both pole vault, while Sydney is involved in theater. Their father suggested that Paige and Maddie try pole vault as freshmen because of their height (they were both 5-foot-7 at the time).

“I think it’s interesting because there are not that many sports for women (where you can be physical),” Paige Martin said. “(Maddie and I) played lacrosse and we were maybe a little too physical. Pole vaulting is interesting because you wouldn’t think of it as a physical sport, but there’s a mental challenge and it’s very competitive.

“I guess all pole vaulters are adrenaline junkies. My coaches always said you have to be a little crazy to pole vault which is definitely true. ... My first meet, I had two practices and I jumped 8-foot-6. The state qualifying (standard) this year was 6-6 or 6-7. I immediately fell in love with it. Anything you’re good at, you fall in love with it.”

Paige and Maddie tied for third (8-6) at the 2017 Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I indoor championships and, after some prodding, convinced their parents to let them do outdoor track and drop lacrosse.

Paige broke out her junior year, starting when she won the Class LL indoor title (11-3). She went on to set an Open record (12-0.5).

She also won last year’s Class LL (12-0) and Open outdoor titles (11-0).

“Maddie and I are both 5-10,” Martin said about her success. “We have that advantage over everyone else. At the same time, I think I have the mental aspect for pole vaulting, which is really hard to grasp. ... I have the confidence to get on the really big poles. I’m jumping on a 13-6-inch pole that’s meant to hold someone that’s 160 or 155 pounds, and that’s a really big deal for girls’ pole vaulting. I want to get to 14, but most girls in pole vaulting are on 11-12-foot poles.”

Martin heaped praise upon her pole vaulting coach, Russ VerSteeg, for helping her career. Teixeira believes that her drive and versatility also helped.

“She’s become well-rounded,” he said. “The athletes that do a lot of the technical stuff, whether it be shot put or javelin, they’ll typically focus on that one event and spend all that time trying to improve on that one event. There’s never enough time (for anything else).

“Paige generally takes a break one or two times a week on getting faster or working on the long jump to help with her explosiveness. She’s tried to improve her athleticism over the years.”

Martin won the Class LL indoor meet again this winter (12-3.5) and once again set the Open record (12-6). Her only regret was not being able to compete at the nationals which were canceled.

“It took me four years with amazing coaches to get to where I am,” Martin said. “I love going (to practice) and just fixing one little thing, which is all you can do, one thing at a time. Once that becomes automatic, you fix the next thing.

“It’s so meticulous and it’s so precise. Everything has to be right, from the back of the runway to the take off to the invert, it’s just so complicated. You’ll never have the perfect form, you’ll never have the perfect run, but I think that’s what I love about it. It’s not perfect.”

n.griffen@theday.com

The Day's 2020 All-Area Girls' Indoor Track & Field Team

Player of the Year — Paige Martin (NFA)

55 meters — Nadia Helme (Ledyard)

300, 600, 1,000 — Kayla Park (NFA)

1,600 — Serena Britner (St. Bernard)

3,200 — Brigid Kunka (St. Bernard)

55 hurdles — Darya Mikusova (East Lyme)

4x200 relay — East Lyme (Ava Pitruzzello, Sydney Arustei, Ava Mauri, Katherine Harris)

4x400 relay — East Lyme (Ellie McCoy, Sophie Taylor, Darya Mikusova, Katherine Harris)

4x800 relay — NFA (Makayla Kelley, Catie Shannon, Sophia Jones, Kayla Park)

Sprint medley relay — Stonington (Nancy Inthasit, Maggie Constantine, Megan Detwiler, Vanessa Benjamin)

High jump — Bri am Ende (East Lyme) 

Long jump — Nadia Helme (Ledyard)

Shot put — Jenny Alarcon (Montville)

Utility — Sjodin Fedikovich (East Lyme), Madison Martin (NFA)

 

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