Track & Field: An injury jeopardizes twins' goals

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For as much as they've been paired together their whole lives, there's a disheartening contrast when it comes to Colin and Ethan Martin.

Throughout their respective running careers at Fox Chapel, the twins have trained together, raced together and experienced their biggest career accomplishments together. By the time they took the medal stand, they would be on different levels, but they were still side by side, bonded by a shared sense of excellence.

Heading into the final months of their senior season, though, there is a sort of disconnect.

While Colin is still running and succeeding -- as evidenced by some of his recent performances -- Ethan has been forced to watch, stung by an injury that has plagued him since September.

"It's very terrifying," Ethan said. "I was supposed to have a great senior year and I had so many plans for it. But I didn't get to do any of it. It's very hard to accept that I don't have a shot to set the school record or defend my WPIAL championship. It's very hard to deal with right now."

Ethan suffered an Achilles tendonitis injury in September, which hampered him throughout both the cross country and indoor track seasons.

Faced with a final opportunity to run high school track, a difficult question has arisen -- is it worth it to push through the injury at 80 percent or would it be best to sit out and rest up for a Division I career at the University of Michigan alongside his brother?

Ethan said a decision will likely come "very soon," but the brief timetable does not mean it will be an easy one.

"Sure, it's easy to say I have Michigan and I have a future," he said. "But it's hard to stop what has pretty much become your life."

If Ethan's injury ultimately forces him to skip the season, it would mark the end of one of the WPIAL's most successful sibling pairings in recent memory.

Ethan and Colin finished first and second, respectively, in the 1,600-meter run at the WPIAL Class AAA championships last May and followed that up by placing first and fourth, respectively, in the PIAA meet nine days later, separated by only six seconds.

Heading into last fall, Colin had never beaten Ethan in a race. That changed with a win at the Red, White and Blue Classic at Schenley Park and nearly two months later, Colin finished 16 seconds ahead of his brother, who was second, to win the WPIAL cross country championship in late October.

That success has continued for Colin. He won the state indoor championship at 3,000 meters by an impressive 12-second margin and earlier this month, he finished fifth in the New Balance Indoor National 5,000-meter championship race, a performance which earned him All-American status.

As brothers and elite runners with few peers in the district, there's naturally a competitive streak between the two, though it's not overbearing.

"While they're very close and they really pull for each other, when they're on the cross country course or the track, they're very competitive and they both want to beat each other very badly," said John Wilkie, the twins' coach. "But it's a very friendly rivalry. No matter what happens, they'll shake hands like brothers should."

Out of that competition have come several positives.

"What's great about it is we're both better for it," said Colin, who took up distance running because of his brother. "He's made me a better person for it. He's made me dig deeper and find out more about the person I am."

Each of the twins has goals for the track season -- Colin to break nine minutes in the 3,200 and win a PIAA championship, Ethan to find a way to race without jeopardizing his future health.

But regardless of how things turn out, it's been a memorable ride.

"It's been incredible," Colin said. "I wouldn't have wanted it any other way."

Craig Meyer: and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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