Sterling 14-year-old played for national runner-up club
Worth the sacrifice
Wake up. Go to school. Immediately after school, make hour-and-a-half trip one way to Aurora, changing, eating and doing homework on the way. Practice for some 3-4 hours. Make trip back to Sterling. Rest and repeat.
She sacrificed the rest of her sports. She's made the round trips to Aurora at least 3 days a week nearly year-round. All to be the best volleyball player she can be and have a chance to play for national championships.
Sterling 14-year-old Kaylee Martin and her Mizuno Sports Performance 14 Elite of Aurora club teammates finished second at the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) national championships June 19-22 in Orlando, Fla.
"At first, it wears you out," Martin said of her grueling schedule. "I'd get home really late, so I was tired a lot. But, it was worth it."
The 5-foot-8 outside hitter, who will be a freshman at Sterling High School this fall, and her teammates had their national title match broadcast on ESPN3.com.
Martin has been a member of the prestigious Aurora club for 2 years. The club has won 70 boys and girls national championships, has produced 547 girls alumni to play in college and has had 106 alumni play at Big Ten universities, which will soon include Martin's idol, Wisconsin-bound Lauren Carlini, the Gatorade national high school player of the year.
Though she's already more than 4 inches taller than the average American woman 20 years old or older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Martin was taller than just two of her club teammates.
She plays taller. She was able to reach 9 feet, 7 1/2 inches in jump tests, higher than many of her taller teammates.
Martin's mother Crystal Rodriguez, a gymnastics national champion as a 10-year-old local in 1989, thinks Kaylee will grow a bit more.
"I would think she'll be at least 5-10 or 5-11 if I was to guess by her shoe size," Rodriguez laughed. "She's got some big feet to grow into."
Martin started playing volleyball at the age of 8.
"I was really bad, but they didn't give up on me," she said.
Martin played 4 years for the local No Limits club, competing at nationals in Reno, Nev., as a 12-year-old.
She hopes to jump right in at the varsity level at Sterling as a freshman.
"I would love to, but wherever they place me, I'd like to help," Martin said.
Rodriguez said Kaylee has made it abundantly clear that she wants to play at Sterling High, even though Rodriguez said the family is contemplating taking up a second residence in or closer to Aurora.
Though she hasn't spent a day in high school, Martin is already thinking further ahead.
"I'd like to play in college," she said. "I'd want to play at the University of Illlinois."
With three trips to nationals under her belt and a rigorous travel schedule with her club, Martin has already had the opportunity to play against teams from many different states and beyond.
"It was really cool playing the Puerto Rican team," she said. "You couldn't understand them, and they were a short team, but they were very good."
Seemingly mild-mannered, Martin is anything but on the court.
"Sometimes when we start losing, I get a little mad, and actually I play really good when I'm mad," she said.
Martin's sister Alexis is also a member of the Aurora club. Just 10 years old, Alexis is on the age 12 elite team.
School: Incoming freshman at Sterling High School
Position: Outside hitter
Club team: Mizuno Sports Performance Elite of Aurora
FYI: Club team took second place at the AAU national championships in Orlando, Fla., June 19-22. ... Was member of local No Limits club team that qualified for nationals when she was a 12-year-old