DOUGLAS — Laritza Martinez is proud to be a Douglas Bulldog, and she wants the world to know it.
Martinez has been a four-year varsity member of the Douglas High School cheer squad. As a sophomore, she was the recipient of the team’s Golden Megaphone award, which is based on athleticism, skill, teamwork and attitude and is usually awarded to an upperclassman from the squad.
Martinez, 17, got involved in cheerleading at the age of 5, beginning with the Douglas Chargers. It was there she met her current cheerleading coach, Andrea Barallardos, who has had a connection with her ever since.
“(Cheerleading) has always been a part of my life,” Martinez said. “I don’t know what I would do without it. It’s a tough sport, and it comes with many challenges. But I truly enjoy it. Being a cheerleader at Douglas High School has been such an amazing experience. I have learned so much. It is such an honor being able to represent my school.”
“Watching her grow and mature over the years has been amazing,” Barallardos said. “She has grown into the type of person I always thought she would. She’s one of those kids who doesn’t complain. She works hard every day. If you ask her to correct something, she does it without hesitation. She understands that everything I do as a coach is for the betterment of the team. She’s funny, positive and brings the team up when they’re feeling down.”
Barallardos said she could see Laritza was a leader even as a young child.
“I remember her coach used to think that she was ‘bossy’ because she would tell other kids (on her squad) what they needed to do to get better at their routine,” she said. “At that age, when you see something like that, you can tell there is leadership potential in them. They already know what needs to be done and want to make sure everybody around them is doing well too.”
Barallardos said that when Martinez was a freshman, she knew she would eventually be a leader on the team.
“We don’t have captains on this squad this year, we have what we call a leadership team that consists of five athletes and she’s on that,” Barallardos said. “They make most of the decisions and work with me on goals of the team. I have found out this works a lot better, and it’s something I plan on continuing.”
Barallardos and Martinez admitted that being a cheerleader takes a lot of time, and Barallardos said Martinez has learned how to manage her time, allowing her to get the most out of each day while maintaining her good grades.
When she is not busy cheerleading, Martinez does other things she enjoys. She’s also involved in a steady relationship with her boyfriend of five years, Diego Martinez, who plays football and baseball for the Bulldogs.
“I like to eat sushi,” she said. “I like country music. My favorite singer is Luke Combs. I also play third base for the DHS softball team.”
Martinez is on the Student Athletic Leadership Club and serves as its secretary. She was the Junior China Poblana for Douglas in 2014-2015, in 2020 she was recognized as the Herald/Review’s Best of Preps Cheerleader of the Year, and last month she and her boyfriend were crowned Douglas High School’s homecoming queen and king.
“I talked to him about it, and we decided to try for homecoming royalty,” Martinez said. “To be recognized that way was unbelievable. It was such a memorable night. I want to thank my parents for their support because without that, I would not be where I’m at now.”.
After high school, Martinez wants to get into nursing and plans on beginning her pursuit at Cochise College.
“After high school, I know there is going to be a part of me missing cheer because it has been my life,” she said. “It’s going to be different. I know I’m going to miss cheerleading. I’m hoping to talk to coach (Barallardos) and maybe help out here in some way since I will still be in Douglas.”
“(Laritza) is going to take all these skills that she has learned here to be a good leader and take them with her when she leaves here,” Barallardos said. “I have no doubt she is going to be successful. I’m going to be sad to see her go.”
“My family and my coaches have played a big part in helping me get to where I’m at now,” Martinez said. “Without them I wouldn’t be here. It’s a great feeling me knowing I’m making my parents proud. I don’t think coach Barallardos knows how much I look up to her. She is such a great coach.”
Martinez’s mom, Carilu, said cheerleading does occupy a lot of time but after seeing what it has done for her daughter, it has all been worth it.
“Laritza lives for this sport,” her mother said. “She has an awesome personality that automatically attracts anyone in the crowd. Her presence demands the crowd’s attention. As her mother and No. 1 fan, I can attest that our personal plans as a family are put on hold to accommodate her cheering schedule. Both myself and my husband, Ricardo, are very proud of her and are anxious to see what the future has in store for her.”