Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera South cross country and track runner Marlen Martinez-Lopez is surrounded by her coaches after signing her National Letter of Intent to CSU Stanislaus on May 5.
It took a while for Marlen Martinez-Lopez to realize her potential. Her coaches were telling her she had the ability to run in college, but it took a while for her to realize that.
“When I was a freshman, I didn’t think I was going to run in college,” Martinez-Lopez said. “I just thought I was going to run for fun. When I was a senior, I started thinking about running in college, try it out and see how it goes from there. It’s tough, but it seemed fun at the same time. I wanted to be a part of that.”
Martinez-Lopez finally realized her potential and earned a scholarship for cross country and track at CSU Stanislaus. She officially signed her National Letter of Intent on May 5 during a ceremony with three other cross country teammates.
“I’m kind of proud that I’m going to run in college,” she said. “Hopefully, I can time manage and keep everything in order in college. I’m at a loss for words. I didn’t think I would be able to run in college. This is all unexpected.”
Martinez-Lopez said she was just looking for a school that had her major and CSU Stanislaus was one of them. She is planning to major in criminal justice with a focus in forensic science.
“I contacted the coach and told them I was interested in the school. We remained in contact throughout the year. They made an offer in April.”
Joining Martinez-Lopez will be two Madera High School runners — Tim Fitch and Lissette Maciel.
“Before I signed, I didn’t know there were two other Madera kids going to CSU Stanislaus,” she said. “When they signed, that’s when I found out. That made me more excited to go because I have someone to communicate with and, hopefully, we’ll become closer.”
In addition to CSU Stanislaus, she was looking at Holy Names, UC Merced and Fresno State. She went on an official visit to Holy Names and was intrigued by UC Merced because of the former Madera South runners Karina Martinez, Angelica Costilla and student assistant coach Sofia Rios.
However, Martinez-Lopez knows she will see her former teammates at other meets.
“We’re still friends, but not during the race,” she said. “We have to run for our school. After, we can hug and take pictures.”
However, she chose Stanislaus because of the campus.
“I really liked the campus,” Martinez-Lopez said. “The school is not too far, but not too close to home. It’s a perfect area to go to. I am looking forward to everything — the classes, the dorms, the food and the running. I’m so excited. I want to experience everything. It’s all going to be new to me so I want to explore everything.”
Martinez-Lopez finished third on the Stallions’ County/Metro Athletic Conference winning girls team in November. She placed sixth overall, two behind teammate Diana Iniguez. She followed that up by again placing second on the team in 24th place at the CIF Central Section championships.
“It’s awesome to have this opportunity,” she said. “I worked really hard my senior year to get interest from coaches to run. It all paid off. I’m so happy. I don’t know how to explain it. I’m glad I’m running. At first, I was running to stay fit. Over the years, I began to like it. It’s something I enjoyed doing.”