Highland High School freshman Katelyn Marti recently put the finishing touches on an unprecedented athletic school year in which she became the first known Bulldog to ever compete in three state finals — cross country, basketball, and track and field — in a single school year.
“Kate Marti is the only kid that I’m aware of in school history that competed in three state finals in one year and even more remarkable is that she did it as freshman!” HHS cross country coach Doug Bradley said of Marti, who actually competed in four sports as she played soccer this spring while also running track. “I think this accomplishment — three trips to state in three different sports as a freshman — is incredible and it is a feat that is likely to never be duplicated by her or anyone else. It takes hard work and skill, of course, but it also takes unbelievably lucky timing. In each of those state appearances, Kate isn’t there if her teammates aren’t ridiculously good.”
Success in all three seasons
Starting with cross country last fall, Marti was one of the top three runners all season en route to helping Highland navigate its way to the Mississippi Valley Conference championship before playing a huge part in the Bulldogs surviving both the regional and sectional meets to advance to the program’s third consecutive — just the girls’ fifth state appearance overall — IHSA Class 2A Girls State Cross Country Meet at Peoria’s Deteweiller Park.
Next in the winter season, Marti received a medal and got on the floor for some valuable minutes in the IHSA Class 3A third-place game at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena. In that game, Highland defeated (Chicago) Morgan Park 62-51 to lock up the best finish in the 38-year history of the program, as well as notch the best finish by any girls’ team ever in a stick and ball sport.
When spring time rolled around, Marti was a key contributor on the soccer team with two goals and three assists, but she also ran in some track and field events. It was in the 4 x 800-meter relay that Marti, senior Allison Zobrist, junior Sarah Beth Weigman and sophomore Rece Portell advanced to the state track meet and picked up a fourth-place medal to score the best state finish for any girls’ relay team in HHS history.
In fact, Marti ran the team’s fastest leg as the anchor with an outstanding split time of 2:24.4.
“Kate is a hard working young lady who always strives to do her very best,” said Highland athletic director Caleb Houchins. “I think that it is incredible that she was able to be a state qualifier in three events as a freshman. It just shows the hard work and determination that she puts into all of her activities. She is going to be a valuable member of Highland athletics for the next three years. The sky is the limit.”
Portell narrowly missed out on equaling Marti with three state final trips. Portell was in contention for a state trip in golf last fall but fell just short before going on to pick up the state medals in basketball and track and field.
Marti is a rare and unique athlete who is driven and determined as well as cerebral.
“Kate has an incredible motor,” Bradley said. “Her energy level is off the charts and she has little capacity for restraint. She is wired differently than a lot of kids I’ve coached. She is a contradiction, of sorts. She’s both a thinker and a doer. Her desire to experience things that get her adrenaline flowing is almost limitless. She runs, she kicks, she dribbles, she passes, she water skis, she hunts, and she just goes and goes. Yet, at the same time, the perfectionist in her is always trying to anticipate and then assess her performance. That creates an edge and I think that sums up Kate. She’s an athlete with an edge about her. After one year in high school, I think the results speak for themselves.”
In an era where so many young athletes are specializing in one sport, Marti is a throwback who competed in cross country, basketball, soccer and track all in one school year.
“Most kids would be worn out just by thinking about that,” Bradley said. “During her cross country season, she was also playing academy basketball and club soccer. In the classroom, she did pretty well too. She had a perfect grade point average.”
In the summer, the cross country and track programs do their running at 7 a.m. Those days for Marti are then frequently followed up with basketball workouts and games. In the evening, Marti’s attention turns to soccer practices and contests.
“Her schedule includes an endless amount of physical activity,” Bradley said. “Health is always a concern but I’ve found with her that she’s not real comfortable with down time. She craves movement.”