Tony's Take: Hidden Gems... In Central Illinois

Tina Martin has the ingredients to be a great track and field athlete

One of the best things about covering high school track and field are the people that you meet directly and indirectly. Over the weekend I was at the Armory on the campus of the at the University of Ilinois in Champaign, when I bumped into a former colleague Darryl Harlan. His son "DJ" Darryl Harlan is a senior standout runner for Edwardsville. We shared a few stories about the state of the sport and how time flies...

I will be centrally located for three of the next four weekends at the U of I, Illinois Wesleyan and where ever there may be track and field action. But late Saturday night when I was looking at results one of my contributors alerted me to Katina Martin and Tina Martin.  They are junior twins at Decatur Eisenhower High School. At the Bloomington Invite these young ladies took over in a big way. Katina Martin led off burning a hole in the track running a state leading 7.64 60m. Her sister would later in the meet handle defending 3A 400m champion senior Kylie Welch of Bloomington 56.74-57.34. Wow! And before my thoughts could be cemented on the fast times that I was perusing I received a text from an insider that I trust from central Illinois. He told me not to get to overly excited because he has seen this from the girls who dominated the state's middle school ranks. I do recall when Tina Martin false started in her 200 state prelim two years ago. She had come into the meet as the #2 overall seed in 2A and missed on her big opportunity. Katina had missed out on that 2015 season as well with an illness called Graves Disease. Tough times indeed for the Martins.

Not to mention is the fact that natural talent may be a contributing factor in the twins uprising or demise. Their mother Tracey Barnes (originally from Kingston, Jamaica) ran collegiately at Abilene Christian, leading the school to national championships in 1998 and '99. She won 14 individual national titles and was a member of the NCAA Division II women's track and field Silver Anniversary team. She still holds the Div. II record in the 400 -- 50.67 in 1998.

Now that's fast but there's more. 

As a freshman at Abilene Christian in 1996, Barnes ran as an alternate on Jamaica's Olympic 4x400 team, which took fourth.

"I got to run in the prelims, but they took me off in the final," Barnes once said. "I helped them qualify for finals, though." The twins father Ewan Martin was himself a national class sprinter at talent rich Abilene Christian.

Admittedly, I have overlooked the Martin's within the last few years simply because they were no longer on the track and field radar. And it may be a bit too soon in announcing their full reemergence. But hey this is high school track and field and there is nothing like the present. I will have an opportunity to see both of them in action as I complete my tour of the interior. Hopefully, it will be a good one!