Teamwork leads to national running reputation at Trinidad State
Valley Campus / February 26, 2020 / Written by Margaret Sanderson
It would be an understatement to say Lauren Martin hit the ground running when she arrived at Trinidad State in Alamosa in the fall of 2016. Herself a national champion, Martin set to work building a running program from the ground up. Since then she and her assistant have coached three runners to national titles: Elias Gedyon (2017), Derek Holdsworth (2018 & 2019), and Benedine Chemilo (2019).
In addition, their women’s team placed 7th in the 2018 NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) Cross Country Championships. In 2019 the men’s team finished in 5th place. On March 7 and 8 the team is headed to Lynchburg, Virginia to the Indoor Track National Championships.
In her first year, with the addition of indoor and outdoor track, Martin’s coaching responsibilities multiplied exponentially. Cross country extends from mid-August to the first week in November followed by indoor track from the first week in December to the first weekend in March. Outdoor track begins in March and runs through the middle of May with cross country practicing year-round. “And recruiting never ends,” said Martin.
Kyle Masterson, her then fiancé, was already assisting Martin as much as he could on a volunteer basis, but Martin needed more. “There are men’s sprint and middle-distance groups and two men’s long-distance groups along with women’s middle and long-distance groups, all requiring timing,” said Masterson. “Six groups all doing slightly different things.” “In track you get a little bit of everything from the 100-meter sprint to the hammer throw,” said Martin. “It’s a wide variety of sports.”
In June 2017, Martin married Masterson who was then hired full-time in 2018 as assistant head coach for cross country/track and field as well as assistant athletic director. “It’s something that fit well and I like to do,” said Kyle who, like Lauren, is a nationally recognized distance runner. Both coaches, who have qualified for the 2020 Olympic tryouts, have been training hard, running an average of 120 to 125 miles a week. The tryouts are in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday, February 29, 2020.
The Mastersons share an office at the college adjacent to the workout room they initiated. “One of the great things we’ve done is create an area that allows, not just our student athletes, but the whole campus to have an opportunity to get on the treadmills, especially with Alamosa conditions,” said Lauren. “Yesterday it was a blizzard. We had our kids on the treadmill and cranking through some workouts.” “That’s what’s good about Trinidad State,” added Lauren. “They’re good at making the best of things, taking what we have and turning it in to what we need.”
Kyle added, “We’re fortunate that the student body and the administration supported that. It helps the students and the feel of the campus.” A feeling of “Trojan pride” is emerging on the Valley Campus, which, for the first time, has teams on campus to root for. This year 19 students are participating.
“Most of our goals are based around helping each student athlete achieve their goals,” explained Lauren. “Typically, that leads to team results. We like to work with those who won national titles, like Benedine Chelimo (from Kenya). We took her from All American her first year to a national champion in her last race.” In 2019 fearless and determined Chelimo won first place (outdoor track) in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, the premier grueling obstacle race, with a time of 11:25.05. “We like that caliber of runner but we also like the people who come in and work really hard and see them PR,” Lauren said. The term PR (personal record) is often used by coaches and team players in reference to performance improvement.
Kyle explained, “We tell the students ‘We can guide you and give you the plan, and the rest is up to you and the work you put in.’ We try to give them the best plan athletically and set them up for success in the classroom. Our overall goal is to help develop people.”
Some of their students come with that process well underway. Mary Baldwin had been running competitively since 2010. She prefers mountain running and 5 and 10 Ks. A kilometer is .62 miles. I’m in a unique position and I’ve trained on my own for a long time,” said Baldwin. I enjoy racing and training for races.” She finished in the top 12 at a few international races in Austria; and, in Sweden last summer, she earned 4th and 8th place finishes. This year she qualified in the 5K (3.1 miles) for nationals. (Cross country for the women is always 5 K and for the men, it’s 8000 meters (about 5 miles).
Baldwin grew up in the Midwest and moved to Colorado in 2014 to finish her bachelor’s in sociology and public health. During that time, she met her husband, also a competitive runner. They moved to the Valley where he was returning to work as a physical therapist. “I’m growing more interested in the clinical side of health care,” she said and thought she would go into nursing. “When we looked at moving, I saw that TSJC has a nursing program that is reputable with a great outcome and that’s how I ended up here. I’m definitely looking at higher education within the nursing world – a master’s or doctorate eventually, possibly nurse anesthetist.”
“One of the things we enjoy about Trinidad State,” said Kyle, “is the different student population. We have students in different trades – auto mechanics, diesel, welding, machining, aquaculture etc. Most trade schools don’t have an athletic program or a team, especially a cross country/track team. We get a lot of people who are interested because they couldn’t do both (run competitively and study) just about anywhere else, but here they can. It’s fun for us because we get to work with a lot of different people with different backgrounds.”
Miguel Coca, from Las Vegas, New Mexico, attended an out-of-state community college his first year. It didn’t go well. He ran track but a combination of home sickness and culture shock left him discouraged. He told his mom he was going to quit running. But his mom did some research and learned Trinidad State had a cross country/track program in Alamosa. She encouraged Miguel to move closer to home and ‘Give it another shot.’
“She’s always been there for me,” said Coca. “I really appreciate that. Even when I’m at my weakest point, she’ll say, “Try again.” He said if it had not been for his mom, he wouldn’t be here (at Trinidad State) today. After he got here and started talking to the coaches, he felt better. “Now we’re just really close,” said Coca who plans to complete some basics at Trinidad State and move on to become a dental hygienist. “In cross country you pretty much have to run for them and they run for you,” he continued. “If you start hurting, you keep going because you’re running as a team.”