Perry Hall to dedicate track to Martin
When Jerry Martin coached track at Perry Hall, he would arrive every morning to work his pole vaulters at 5:45, teach all day and then put the rest of the team through its paces for two hours every afternoon. He did that for 31 years.
Those who ran for him admired not just his knowledge of the sport, but his dedication to the youngsters who made up his often highly successful teams.
The Gators won 38 Baltimore County track championships during Martin’s 31 years as coach, but his overall contribution to the Perry Hall community went much further than trophies. Recognizing that, school officials will dedicate the school's track to Martin, who passed away suddenly in June at 66, Thursday at halftime of the Gators’ 7 p.m. football game against Tuscarora.
“He was a very tough coach,” said David Marks, who ran cross country for Martin from 1988-90. “He was very strict, really pushed his team to the limits but on a personal level one of the fairest people I’ve ever met. He was a very demanding coach, but I think he gave all of us a sense of discipline that was really needed at that point in our lives.”
Martin began his coaching career at Dundalk High in 1968 and moved to Perry Hall in 1974. In addition to the track titles, his Gators won 12 straight county cross country championships between 1986 and 1997. His teams won a remarkable 83 percent of their dual meets in cross country, indoor and outdoor track.
“He knew every event like the back of his hand. He worked harder than anybody. He was just a consummate professional. He was the best coach I’d ever been around at any level -- a great motivator, his knowledge of the sport, his dedication to the sport,” said Brad Kressman, a Perry Hall physical education teacher and a former assistant to Martin who was one of the driving forces behind the track dedication.
Gators’ track teams often numbered more than 100 runners, said Kressman, making for quite a juggling act for Martin at practice.
“It was something to see,” said Kressman. “He would be in the middle and it was like a three-ring circus. There were so many kids and everybody was doing something different. If you didn’t see it, you wouldn’t believe it. He worked so hard.”
Marks remembers grueling workouts. His cross country team would run two miles to Gunpowder State Park as a warm up, then run hills at the park before running back to school to finish the workout.
Over Labor Day weekend, Marks and about 35 other former Gators and some of their spouses gathered at Perry Hall to run part of the cross country loop in Martin’s honor. Marks said the event, organized through Facebook, might become a more formal run in the future. He added that a Facebook page has been set up in Martin’s honor.
“It’s amazing the impact he had on the community at large,” said Marks, who is president of the Perry Hall Improvement Association. “Parents and grandparents of children who went to that school remember him. He was probably one of the most memorable teachers and coaches we’ve ever had at Perry Hall. His death was very sudden and it just had an impact on a lot of people.”
Photos of Jerry Martin by Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun / Nov. 16, 1995, and John Roemer IV / May 2, 2009