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From Pojoaque to Rio Rancho Cleveland, Matt Martinez takes the helm as AD

Former Pojoaque High athletic director, Matt Martinez, gets the call to fill the same role at Rio Rancho Cleveland High after announcing his retirement from Pojoaque last year

The Northern New Mexico native now relocates to take over Storm athletics after 33 years with the Elks/Elkettes

Arnie Leshin

By ARNIE LESHIN, Santa Fe Today

It’s been only a year since Matt Martinez announced his retirement after 33 years at Pojoaque Valley, where he served as a coach and as the athletic director.

But when he made the decision, he never forgot all those wonderful years. He even looked into the possibility of perhaps filling the same role at another school in the state.

There was talk, just talk that he applied at Santa Fe High and Espanola Valley, and that officially he had been a candidate at Santa Fe Indian School, but it had already decided on the new AD.

But he never slowed down. He just continued to drive activity busses from other schools while being District 2-4A chairman in his final year at Pojoaque.

But when he received a call from Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho, he was surprised but happy that it was seeking a new athletic director and thought that he might be interested. From there, all it took was a visit to Cleveland HS for Martinez, who is quite energized at age 60.

“I never applied for it,’ he said, “but knew about it. I gave it a lot of thought before deciding on accepting it. Now instead of being happy and retired, I’m happy but unretired.”

Cleveland had opened in 2006 and quickly became Rio Rancho High’s biggest rival. The older school had a big head start, but the Storm is collecting state championships yearly.

Football was its initial title, it has won cross country three times, it already owns five wrestling championships, three in  track and field, one in volleyball, and the boy’s golf program has won the last two times.

That totals 15 in 11 years. At Pojoaque, Martinez was there through 22 state titles over two more decades.

“It will be different,” Martinez said. “It is hard to get used to a new place when you’ve been somewhere for so long. But once I start to get rolling, the day usually goes by fast and you keep busy. And there is a lot to do.”

But he won’t have the duties of overseeing the middle school program like he did at Pojoaque, and so he can focus solely on ensuring one of the state’s largest schools, one making a mark on the prep sports scene.

For now, he has a new location, but is fortunate to have his brothers and mom in the Rio Rancho area, so he doesn’t have to call the furniture movers.

But he still remains a Northern guy. Played sports while graduating from Mora High, and gaining knowledge of every sport.

“That’s what I am, a Northern guy,” he said, “and have Northern blood in me, something you can never take away. They might fade a little, but they will never be far from the surface.”

He sure can coach. He lost only three times in one stretch where the Elkettes won the state 3A championship in 1997-1998. The following season, he lost his only game when his girls finished second in the state final, and again in the 1998-1999 state final.

He also became the boy’s head basketball coach to fill the position one year, and anytime a sport needed coaching or supervision, Martinez was there.

Whenever one of the teams were hitting the road, Martinez drove the bus. He never lost track of any of the athletic programs, and always kept track of track and field when he was a yearly New Mexico Activities Association events supervisor at the state championship run at UNM, something he hopes to continue.

Back at Pojoaque, the Elks and Elkettes finished runner-up in state 19 times and won 45 district titles from the time that Martinez stepped onto the campus in 1984.

It’s a new location with new colors for him. From Pojoaque kelly, green and white, he now switches to Cleveland aqua, silver and white.

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