Junior Christian Martin started running track as a freshman in high school to prove that he could beat the fastest kid in his school. Now, he runs to prove that he is the fastest hurdler in the Ivy League.
“At first, track was interesting because I wasn’t very fast at all, actually,” said Martin. “I learned that track and field is a sport where what you put in is what you get out.”
Since that point, he has put in the work to get him to the spot he is in now. Martin currently holds the second-fastest 60m hurdle time in the Ivy League, continuously dropping his time and personal best week in and week out. He most recently ran his best time of 7.91 seconds at the Rutgers Open, which is also good for fourth all-time for Cornell.
Martin believes that the first step towards achieving his success came in falling in love with his best event: the hurdles.
“My high school coach said I should be a hurdler since I have long legs, and I was like, ‘Sure, I’ll do it,’” Martin added. “But once I found a little spark in that, the dedication to be great and to really progress my career, I saw that through a lens and I wanted to make that a part of my life. So I started working every single day, working hard at practice, knowing that what I put in, I can get out. Knowing that I can be great.”
Martin’s success did not come right away in high school. It took him a while to even learn how to run over a hurdle correctly. But since that point where it all clicked, the day that he found his “calling,” he said there was no looking back.
“I remember one practice where something may have gotten me mad, I was really dedicated to trying to perfect my art in hurdling,” said Martin. “That was the day I found my calling, and ever since then I’ve been rolling uphill.”
Freshman year of high school was more of a year for Martin to get started in the sport. It was the year that he found his calling, and when he first began to perfect his craft, the year that Martin put his name out to the rest of his county and solidified himself as the fastest freshman in his county.
In his sophomore year campaign, Martin took the next step and exploded onto the scene as a top competitor in this event. He advanced to the New Jersey state meet during that indoor track season and consistently placed in the bigger outdoor meets such as the county meet before getting injured later on in the year.
Building on his success, Martin’s junior year saw an exponential growth to his success. He won his first county championship and his first sectional championship, competing at Meet of Champs and qualifying for the New Balance Nationals at the Championship Elite level. The New Balance National Championships, Championship Elite pits the best of the best in the nation against one another, with lower levels allowing for representation from slower qualifying times.
“And that was when my name started to grow and when college track was really starting to become a mindset,” Martin said.
Moving to his senior year, a brief list of his accomplishments include: competing at the New Balance Nationals again in both his indoor and outdoor seasons, winning multiple sectional championships, competing at Meet of Champs again, setting records such as the only athlete in New Jersey to score 40 points in a meet and being named Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
When it came time to make a selection for life after high school, Martin had narrowed his list down to a top-three: Wake Forest, Georgetown and Syracuse. However, Cornell was able to land Martin by influencing his last-minute turnaround.
“Out of nowhere, Cornell reached out at the latest point and really flipped the entire thing,” Martin said. “I wanted great athletics and a great education, which is something that none of the other schools could match. Plus, the team environment when I first came here – I loved it. The people on this team are like no other teams across the nation, which I experienced firsthand.”
And so, Christian Martin officially became a member of the Red, looking to make an immediate impact. He entered college already the top hurdler for Cornell Track and Field and was able to score at meets as just a freshman, including at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships, known as HEPS. Martin placed fifth in the 60m hurdles with a time of 8.13 seconds.
Before he could make his mark again during that 2020 outdoor season, the Cornell campus was shut down and all students were sent home.
On Martin’s return to campus during his sophomore year, official competition was again canceled, but he was able to resume practicing with the team again. This is when Martin had the realization that in order to be great as he set out to be, he needed to rethink his strategy.
“Even though we didn’t compete, I knew that I wasn’t where I needed to be as a sophomore for what I wanted to gain out of Cornell, where I wanted to be nationally,” Martin remarked. “So starting all the way in the summer before junior year, it was about working hard every day –– going to the weight room, pushing myself to be something that I’m not. I think the main takeaway is that I had to change who I was to get to this point.”
Martin has run a historic indoor track season, which has resulted in consistent drops in his personal best times in the 60m hurdles and a chase for the Cornell record in the event. He is now two weeks away from competing at HEPS again, this time with a realistic goal of walking away as Ivy League champion.
Though he holds the second fastest time in the Ivy League for this indoor season by a margin of an entire 0.15 seconds, Martin is confident in his ability to compete and to walk away as the winner of the event. By the time he walks into the New Balance Track and Field Center at the Armory in New York City on Feb. 26, he will be fully prepared.
“I know that I’m gonna do everything I can from here, for the next two weeks, that will make me first win Heptagonals and then hopefully compete for nationals,” Martin said.
Hard work and determination are the only barriers between Martin and his title of champion, not any specific athlete or time on a stopwatch.
“It doesn’t really matter about the time. If it mattered about time, we wouldn’t have the Olympics,” Martin said. “I’m definitely going to be there to compete. The times don’t matter – all that matters is who’s ready at the time the gun goes off.”
Martin has big goals for the culmination of this indoor season, hoping to take home a first place finish for the Red in the 60m hurdles and then advance to the national championship, which accepts the top 16 national athletes in the event. And then it is on to the outdoor season, a season in which Martin expects to see not only continued success, but an even more impressive performance.
“And I’m telling you, if you think I’m good indoor –– outdoor, I’m amazing,” Martin added.
Martin has an opportunity to mark his name in the Cornell record books and become a first place finisher in the Ivy League HEPSl. Though this is all within grasp, Martin expressed that the job is not finished yet and he can’t get ahead of himself.
“Don’t congratulate me yet,” Martin said. “Congratulate me at the end.”