A Strong finish

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A Strong finish

Martin Strong races towards the finish line, preparing for the upcoming track season.

Martin Strong races towards the finish line, preparing for the upcoming track season.

Meg Murphy

Martin Strong races towards the finish line, preparing for the upcoming track season.

Meg Murphy

Meg Murphy

Martin Strong races towards the finish line, preparing for the upcoming track season.

By Grace Klebe, Kirkwood High School

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His heart is racing. 130 beats per minute and he hasn’t started running yet.

The gun fires.

One minute and 53 seconds later, he collected his second state championship title of the weekend.

Martin Strong, senior, is a three time track and field state champion. He has set two school records and last year he took first place in the Festival of Miles race.

Strong was born in Los Angeles, CA, but only lived there for a few months before moving to Japan for three years. After that he lived in France for four years and Nashville for nine. Strong’s family moved to Kirkwood before his freshman year.

At KHS, he didn’t initially want to join cross country. In fact, freshman year, he resented it, but he was encouraged by his family to join.

[Strong is] very talented. He keeps things relaxed and he knows how to have fun. It is good to have a more relaxed person on the team to not take things so seriously.”

— Will Arbanas

“I wasn’t fast. I kind of sucked. I didn’t really know how to run that well,” Strong said. “I hated it. But then I thought, ‘Oh, this isn’t so bad.’ I really liked the team, and the community is great.”

It wasn’t a fluke that he showed up to the first day of tryouts. Strong says his family has a long history of success in running, and he grew up watching it. Both of his parents and older siblings were runners at one point, and they encouraged him to join cross country.

“My sister was a pretty phenomenal athlete,” Strong said. “I was so inspired by her. She was crazy fast.”

By his sophomore year, Strong qualified for state in cross country and won two titles at the state track meet, one in the 800 meter race and another in the 800 meter relay. That year he also set a school record for the 800 meter race. Strong’s junior year, the 800 meter relay team won again and set another school record. He also participated in the 800 meter race, but didn’t place.

“Last year, the [state] meet was pushed into one day [instead of two], so I had no rest time between the 800 meter relay and the 800 meter race,” Strong said. “I think if it was over two days I could have won it.”

As a top runner on both cross country and track, Strong is seen as a leader to younger athletes according to Will Arbanas, junior. Strong was also named captain for the 2020 track season.

“[Strong is] very talented,” Arbanas said. “He keeps things relaxed and he knows how to have fun. It is good to have a more relaxed person on the team to not take things so seriously.”

Despite his success in running, Strong finds himself stressed before each race. He knows that he performs better when he is relaxed, which is one of the reasons he believes he did so well at last year’s Festival of Miles race where he set a personal record for himself. According to track coach Chris Scott, Strong is a hardworking and competitive athlete which shows through every race he runs.

“People all over the state know who he is because of his ability to perform well in high quality meets,” Scott said. “He gives it his all. He works hard at practice. He’s very modest and humble about his talent, but he’s also a monster competitive-wise, and it’s gotten him a lot of success.”

Strong hopes to qualify for state in both track and cross country again this year, and is going to try to beat the school record for the mile. Scott believes Strong and the rest of the boy’s distance team have a good chance of being successful again this season, and Strong will continue to be one of the top runners on the team.

According to Scott, “this tall, goofy kid is a force to be reckoned with.”

This story was originally published on The Kirkwood Call on October 7, 2019.