Editor's Note: This is the fifth and final in a series of articles looking back at some of the all-time great track and field athletes from southwest Kansas. The 100th KSHSAA Track and Field Championships was held Friday and Saturday at Cessna Stadium in Wichita.

By BRETT MARSHALL

bmarshall@gctelegram.com

The track and field fans who were fortunate enough to watch Stanton County's Dodie Martin run through her high school years, can only look back with amazement at her accomplishments.

Four times she was a state Class 2A 3,200-meter champion in Class 2A. Three times she was a state champion at 1,600. Twice she earned gold medals in the 800. Nine gold medals in four years. When you add four state 2A cross country championships (the first girl to accomplish the feat) Martin is one of the most decorated female athletes in distance running history in Kansas.

When the 100th Kansas State Track and Field Championships were held at Cessna Stadium in Wichita on Friday and Saturday, Martin was nowhere to be found.

She was taking a holiday weekend trip to Colorado to spend time with family and friends and she had mixed feelings about not being at the centennial state event.

"The state meet was always a special event for me and for my teammates and I'm sorry I won't be there," Martin said last week. "But I haven't been back for several years (2003 when she was inducted along with Stanton County coach Ark Morris into the Kansas State Hall of Fame), so I've gotten away from it a little."

Martin now resides in La Crosse, which is similar in size to the community she grew up in. She is a physician's assistant and is in her third year.

"I guess at heart, I'm a country girl and this is a great place," Martin said. "I had interviewed for jobs out of school and one was here, one was in Ellsworth and one was in Wichita. I just felt a lot more comfortable here."

Martin will be married in November to Brian Baalman, a former football player at Garden City Community College. La Crosse is where the two met almost two and a half years ago. Baalman works for a computer company that specializes in geological research.

While her prep career was punctuated in cross country and track, Martin also excelled on the basketball floor for the Lady Trojans. It was where she got more of her enjoyment, and it was for that reason that she took her basketball skills to the college level rather than run track or cross country.

"Running didn't come easy for me," Martin said. "There's just a lot more mental discipline that is required than in basketball. I don't have any true regrets."

Martin played two years at Otero Junior College in LaJunta, Colo. She then went northeast to Wayne State (Neb.) where she played for a team that competing in the Northern Sun Conference. She graduated in 2003 and spent a year in Nashville, Tenn. before returning to Wayne State where she served one season as the assistant women's basketball coach (2004-2005).

"I knew that I wanted to do something more in medicine," said Martin, who's undergraduate degree was in exercise science. "So I applied to Wichita State to specialize in the physician's assistant program."

She graduated in the spring of 2007, then moved to La Crosse.

"I love what I'm doing, I love helping people and I work with a wonderful group of physicians," Martin said.

Martin has a clear recollection of her first trip to Wichita and walking into Cessna Stadium.

"I asked coach (Morris), 'are you sure this track is regulation size?'," she said of her freshman year. "It looked a lot bigger than the ones I had run on during the regular season. I remember being so nervous, something that happened to me all the time and coach Morris told that if I wasn't nervous it wasn't a good thing."

Martin, who has the fifth fastest time in The Telegram's All-Time Honor Roll in the 1,600 (5:18.6) and third all-time best mark of 11:24.3 in the 3,200, said the longer the distance the better she would perform.

"I always liked to get out to the lead and then just try to extend it throughout the race," Martin said. "The 800 was too quick for me, more like a sprint."

Her memories blur to some extent, she said, but she does remember her brother and sister located at different parts of the stadium on curves so she could hear their encouragement.