Prep Track and Field

Competitiveness runs in Benton hurdler Grace Martensen's genes

Benton's star hurdler is the granddaughter of Norway baseball legend Jim Van Scoyoc

Grace Martensen of Benton Community is the two-time defending Class 3A state champion in the 100-meter hurdles. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Grace Martensen of Benton Community is the two-time defending Class 3A state champion in the 100-meter hurdles. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

VAN HORNE — When Grace Martensen was beaten in the preliminaries of the Class 3A girls’ 100-meter hurdles at last year’s state track and field meet, Marty Thomae knew what to do.

Leave her alone.

“He knows not to come up to me when I lose,” said Martensen, a senior at Benton Community. “I get so mad. I’m not very approachable.”

That competitiveness is in her genes, said Thomae, the Bobcats’ veteran head coach.

“She gets that from the Van Scoyoc side, I think,” Thomae said. “If you beat Grace, you’re not going to do it without a heck of a fight.”

Yes, Martensen’s grandfather is Jim Van Scoyoc, legendary baseball coach at Norway High School.

“He lives about 30 seconds away from our house (in Norway),” Martensen said. “He’s a huge baseball guy, of course, but when I talk to him, I can tell he’s been looking at everybody’s times and stuff.”

Martensen stewed and simmered for a while after those prelims last year — Iowa City Liberty’s Taylor Cannon edged her, 14.79 seconds to 14.81.

The finals were the following day.

“I was really nervous,” Martensen said. “I had worked all season to win a state championship. I knew if I did what I always do, I’d be OK.”

She was more than OK, setting a 3A state-meet record of 14.51 seconds, edging Cannon (14.58).

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Martensen also anchored Benton’s winning shuttle hurdle relay. She ran on the Bobcats’ second-place 800-meter relay and the third-place 400-meter relay.

Benton was fourth in the 3A team race.

Since then, Martensen committed to and signed with the University of Northern Iowa track and field program. Right now, she is nursing a sore quadriceps muscle.

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“It’s frustrating,” she said. “Right now, it’s a lot of resting and icing.”

At the Iowa State indoor last Monday, Martensen ran the 60-meter hurdles (she was second), then Thomae shut her down for the rest of the night.

“I was just in tears,” Martensen said. “I never cry in front of people.”

“We had been inside so much because of the weather, I think that affected her training a little bit,” Thomae said. “We’re going to rest her a little bit. We can’t let this be nagging her all season.”

Track wasn’t Martensen’s first love. A member of Benton’s 2016 state-championship softball team, she grew up thinking she would play that sport in college, and she probably could have. Or maybe volleyball.

“She’s so athletic, so strong, so determined,” Thomae said.

Martensen began her high-school track career as a 400- and 800-meter runner.

“One of the shuttle-hurdle girls got hurt, and I asked Thomae if I could give it a shot,” she said.

After that, there was no turning back.

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“It’s fun going over the hurdles,” Martensen said. “The main thing is perfecting that trail leg. Speed is a big thing.”

So is attitude.

“Grace has that fearlessness,” Thomae said. “You have to be a little bit of a daredevil.”

Martensen’s high-school athletic career will end in May; she has decided to pass on her senior softball season.

She wants to leave a mark, assuming her body is willing.

“I want to win state again, of course,” she said. “I really want to win (the 100 hurdles) at the Drake Relays. Nobody at Benton has ever done that, and it would be amazing to be the first.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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