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Athlete of the Week – Natalia Martino

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WINNEBAGO (WREX) — Cross country at Winnebago High School has a rich history, and Natalia Martino has only added to that. The senior led the Indians to a class 1-A state championship in Peoria last fall, and she hasn't slowed down. Last Saturday she broke her own school record for fastest course time at Fuller Forest Preserve.

"It feels pretty good, it's nice, I had the school record before so I was able to break that again," said Martino. "Hopefully it can stand for a couple of years before one of my other teammates breaks it so I was happy I was able to make that time a little harder to get."

Martino emphasized that the team is a close-knit group, and that's what makes Winnebago cross country so special.

"We're such a family. Even though we're not related or anything, we spend so much time together," said Martino. "We're so close and I feel like that might be hard to find in other places and there will never be anything like the Winnebago cross country team."

Martino is coached by Joe and Janet Erb, who were recently selected into the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame. They've seen nothing but great things from Natalia for the entire time they've known her.

"I was getting results on her and following her race results in like fourth grade and during road races," said Joe. "So it's been a long journey. She's got a ton of passion for racing and running and training. What you see is a culmination of a lot of hard work."

He continued by talking about the standard that Natalia has set for the program for years to come.

"She shows up, she works hard, she races hard. She sets a standard," said Joe. "We've got a lot of young girls that have come through behind her and come through with her and she's become a standard bearer. That's all I can say about her is that she sets a standard of excellence."

Natalia Martino, setting a standard of excellence for girls cross country at Winnebago High School.

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Sam Knox

Sam joined the WREX news team in the Spring of 2020.

He graduated from Emerson College in May of 2020, just two days before moving to Rockford to take the job at WREX as a Weekend Sports Anchor/Reporter. He majored in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Sports Communication.

Sam is originally from Sturbridge, Massachusetts, and has been an avid sports fan his whole life. He played basketball and baseball in high school, and he went on to play collegiate baseball at Emerson.

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