DUBUQUE - When former Midland High School four-sport superstar Alex Martens started his athletic career at Loras College three years ago, it was to play basketball.
My how things can change.
“I got recruited for basketball at Loras and played my first season on the JV team,” he said. “After my first basketball season the Loras track coach reached out to me and asked if I was interested in jumping as a sophomore.
“I decided to still devote most of my time to basketball and play out my sophomore season and then jump with the track team when basketball was over in the spring. After not seeing the floor much at all for the varsity basketball team and then having some success high jumping with the track team, I decided it was time for a change.”
Martens decided to end his basketball run with the Duhawks and concentrate all his effort to becoming the best high jumper he could be.
It sure didn’t take long for Martens, who was a high jump state qualifier in high school, to once again quickly have success, this time at the collegiate level.
“I jumped my career personal-record my sophomore year during the outdoor season in 2019 going 6-feet, 5.25-inches at the conference meet,” he said. “That gave me a lot of confidence right away, and I’ve been trying to get back up there and break that PR ever since.”
Helping Martens through much of his adjustment from hoops to track has been new Loras College jumpers coach Mason Tangen.
“In high school and in my first two years here at Loras, I pretty much had to learn high jumping on my own,” he said. “I had no specific jumper’s coach, so if I was doing something wrong, or if something didn’t feel right, I really had nowhere to go for someone to help me or answer a question. Now I do, and he’s been a huge help.”
Martens devoted himself to the team this past winter competing in Loras’ indoor track and field campaign where he was once again regularly scoring points for a powerful Duhawks’ team.
“Right now, I’m the No. 2 or No. 3 high jumper on the team, but we have a very good team,” Martens said. “That’s also going to help me get better quicker, having so many teammates who can jump so high is just going to motivate me to try and get up there with them.”
Loras claimed four indoor team championships this past winter, including the American Rivers Conference indoor title Feb. 28, in Decorah, where Martens just missed scoring for the Duhawks soaring 6-1 to place ninth at the loaded event.
Martens flew a season-best 6-3.25 to place eighth at the University of Dubuque’s Spartan Invitational Feb. 21.
“I’ve been pretty consistent jumping close to the same heights during the entire indoor season,” Martens said. “I couldn’t quite get to the 6-4 or 6-5 heights I was hoping for, but my coach has some plans for me to be able to maximize my abilities.”
Tangen feels Martens, with a little tweaking in his jump, could easily soar over the bar set at 6-6, 6-7 or even 6-8.
“I just need to do a better job of arching my back, and that’s something I’ve been working on, and wanted to work on this spring during the outdoor season but never got that chance,” said Martens, as the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the all of the NCAA’s spring sports campaigns, and at every level of competition.
“That was kind of disappointing. As a group, our Loras high jumping team ranked seventh in the country and I couldn’t wait to see what we could do outdoors. Not only that, but I’m most likely going to be graduating early so that might also play a factor into what I can do next indoor and outdoor seasons. I’m not too sure I’ll get to compete or not? That’s something I’m going to have to work out with my coaches. I would still like to jump next year.”
Martens said he had also hoped to add the javelin to his outdoor list of events this spring as well.
“I was going to wait to start practicing the javelin after the Indoor Nationals,” he said. “Then everything got shut down.”
After spending his sophomore season jumping outdoors and his junior campaign jumping indoors, Martens is happy with how his performances have progressed.
“I think I’ve improved, but I think I’ve still got a lot left in me, too,” he said. “I’ve just got some fine-tuning to do, and hopefully I get the opportunity to do it. Coming into this season I didn’t really have a lot of high expectation for myself coming into this season, which would have been my first full track and field year if not for the virus.
“We’ll just have to see what plays out later this year and how quickly I can get a job after graduating, because in the end that is what I’m here to do, but I sure wouldn’t mind one more shot at jumping.”