Storylines To Look For At The AIA State T&F Championships

Red Mountain junior Tyler Mathews leads the field in the 1600m final at the AIA Division I State Track & Field Championships last weekend at Red Mountain High School in Mesa. Mathews, the state record-holder in the 800m, will attempt to pull off a double in the 800m and 1600m at this week's AIA State Track & Field Championships at Mesa Community College.





Will more state records fall?

This spring has arguably been one of the best ever on record in terms of performances with five state records falling this outdoor track and field season.

Desert Vista junior Hayden Gorovitz got the year started with his javelin state record, which he re-broke multiple times and currently stands at No. 1 in the United States at 221-8.


Gorovitz said he's aiming to eclipse that record on Saturday at the AIA State Track and Field Championships, going for a mark of at least 230 feet. That would put Gorovitz on the top 25 all-time list in US prep history if he were able to reach that distance.

The next four state records for the year all came at one meet, the Arcadia Invitational in southern California, in one of the most memorable evenings in Arizona prep track and field history.


Williams Field senior Saira Prince pulled off the incredible double in the 100mH (13.58) and 300mH (41.24). In the sprints, Mountain Pointe senior Jayden Davis ran 46.45 in the 400m. And in the distances, Red Mountain junior Tyler Mathews ran 1:49.32 in the 800m.

Prince is the heavy favorite in the 300mH, but will be battling it out with Hamilton junior Kori Martin, Chaparral senior Brooke Nordman -- who just committed to the University of Arizona -- and rising Sunnyslope freshman Aniyah Martin. It is in the 100mH though where Prince faces her biggest test in Hamilton's Martin.

The two put on one of the single greatest races we have seen at this level last month at the Hohokam Invitational as Martin nearly beat out Prince, but the Prince was able to regain the lead in the last hurdle. In that race, they ran wind-aided times (+2.2) of 13.58 and 13.67, which both fall within the top 5 all-time in state history for all conditions.

Will Martin be able to put together a complete race and finally take down the state record holder? Or will Prince -- who will be at ASU next year -- defend her crown for one last time? And how fast will they run? It's my most anticipated race of the whole meet.

For Davis, the senior has faced little competition in state for the 400m as the ASU-bound sprinter is in a league of his own. Davis tied his state record at the Tempe City Meet last month before re-breaking it this past weekend at the AIA Division II State Track and Field Championships with a time of 46.37. In every single scored 400m race this season, Davis has run a personal best. He has one more time to lower it in a Mountain Pointe uniform.

In the 200m, Davis comes in seeded No. 1 at 21.29 -- but he'll have stiff competition in Valley Vista senior Blaise Nelson (21.38) and Desert Vista junior Roan Martinez (21.35). Those three figure to be the top contenders for a podium spot. South Mountain's Dwayne Evans (1976) holds the state record at 20.22.

Mathews was the surest bet to set a state record prior to this season as the junior beat the record-holder, South Mountain's Brian Fair Jr., at the AIA Division I State Track and Field Championships last year and was No.4 on the all-time list. He made quick work of it, running the record in just his third 800m of the year after recovering from an injury over the summer. Since then though, the rest of the state has closed the gap.

There are four more athletes who have dipped under 1:54 (Corona del Sol senior and Cornell commit Tyler Tisinger, Salpointe Catholic senior Diego VelizQueen Creek junior Zachary Ripperdan and Shadow Mountain senior Jack Rea). I still expect Mathews to comfortably win as no one in the field has the 400m speed that he does, but I anticipate this being a very fast overall race. 

What I'll also be watching for is Mathews in the 1600m as he has decided to double. In impressive fashion, he ran a state-leading time of 4:13.45 to win the Division I state title last week. Can Mathews do the double and become the first boy since 2021 (Casteel's Dayton Carlson) to run sub-4:10 in the 1600m? I think the odds are good, with talented athletes like Eastmark sophomore Bryson Nielsen, Chandler senior Gibson Kibia, Liberty senior Jonathan Sweepe, Paradise Valley senior Lucas Grunden, Salpointe Catholic senior Michael Urbanski and Hamilton senior Andrew Gibby seeded behind him.

In the relays, there are a couple races to keep an eye on. With Mathews as a low stick, the Red Mountain 4x800m boys relay team -- which consists of juniors Matthew Hamilton at 1:54.33 and Roman Smith at 1:57.57, and senior William Bergman at 1:56.84 -- is taking a shot at the record held by Highland, which ran 7:42.16 in 2019. In the 4x100m boys relay, Shadow Ridge (40.94) and West Point (40.99) will take a stab at the 2012 record of 40.46, set by Mountain Pointe.

Over in the field events, North Canyon senior Gloriah Hussey has a chance in the girls high jump.

She recently jumped 5-10 on April 15, which is just .05 inches off No. 5 on the all-time list. The thing is, the top 5 list is pretty bunched up. The state record is 6-0.5, set by Gilbert's Jenna McDowell in 1996. Hussey, who will be competing at the University of Utah next year, is a legitimate contender to threaten that record.

In the boys pole vault, Highland senior Zach Bingham is approaching heights only a few in state history have reached.

Two weeks ago, Bingham hit 17-4 to make him the No. 3 all-time performer. Bingham is behind some legendary names in Valley Vista's Cole Riddle (17-7) and Tolleson's Nick Hysong (17-4.75). Hysong went on to win the gold medal in the pole vault at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

Bingham, a BYU commit, will have one more opportunity to eclipse those names while donning the aqua green and black colors, which I'm sure he'll at least attempt to do.

Can super freshman Mayen Usoro pull off the sprint triple?

One of the biggest surprises this season has been the emergence of Cesar Chavez freshman Mayen Usoro. Simply put, Usoro has been the most complete sprinter this whole spring in her first year at the high school level.

She has recorded six sub-12 second 100m, just dipped under 24 seconds in the 200m and has seven sub-60 seconds 400m races so far -- all wind-legal. Usoro is the state leader in the 100m (11.54) and 200m (23.95) and is No. 3 in the 400m (55.90). She was able to pull off the triple at last week's Division I State Championships and is entered to do so again at this week's meet.

Usoro is the favorite in the 100m, where I expect her to win with relative ease. Although I'm sure Agua Fria junior Stacey Onyepunuka (her older sister, Jessica, is the state record holder in the 100m) will have something to say about that. Onyepunuka is seeded second and has run 11.71 this season.

The 200m will surely be closer, with North Canyon senior and Utah commit J'Neya Hill at 24.05. Chandler sophomore S'Niyah Cade, whose freshman 100m state record was broken by Usoro earlier this season, will also be a factor in the 200m race.

The 400m is where Usoro's greatest fight will come as she is the underdog.

Ironwood's Jasmine Haskell is the No. 1 seed as she comes in with a time of 54.64. Campo Verde junior Lea Spindell is seeded second at 55.28. Outside of the girls 100mH, this is another race I am eagerly awaiting. Haskell and Spindell have been battling one another the whole year for the state lead and now Usoro gets thrown in the mix.

We did get a preview of this race in the girls elite 400m at the Nike Chandler Rotary Invitational on March 25, where Haskell was first (55.97), Usoro was second (56.01) and Spindell was fourth (56.87). With all three in better form since then, we could see three girls all run 54 seconds or faster. That would make for one of the greatest girls 400m races there has been.

Landen LeBlond vs. Lauren Ping

For the past four years, Valley Christian senior Lauren Ping has been the best distance runner in Arizona.

She won three individual state titles in cross country and two in track with Desert Vista before transferring over to Valley Christian for her senior year, where she defended her individual title in cross country for the fourth time.

Ping owns lifetime bests of 4:44.96 in the mile, 10:16.32 for the 3200m in track and 16:40.40 for 5,000 meters in cross country. There's no denying her place in history. 

Now, she gets a chance to go against the next up-and-coming great-distance runner from Arizona in Millennium's Landen LeBlondThe junior from Goodyear has lit up the track this outdoor season with personal bests of 2:10.39 in the 800m, 4:44.60 in the mile and 10:22.01 in the 3200m. The mile time is currently US No. 7.

The pair didn't race against each other in cross country in the fall and haven't faced off yet in track. That changes as both are entered in the 1600m and 3200m, both as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, setting the stage for what should be an epic duel.

LeBlond has shown up time and time again this season with a heavy workload, running in eight meets. Ping battled injuries to start the year, which limited her racing -- she's only appeared in four meets with a large gap between March and April.

But Ping has found her form at the perfect time, as she swept the 800m (2:20.59), 1600m (4:59.88) and 3200m (10:41.00) at the Division IV State Track and Field Championships last week. The 1600m and 3200m times are ranked AZ No. 2, behind LeBlond.

I give the edge to LeBlond in the 1600m. LeBlond's performance at the Arcadia Invitational, where she ran 4:44 for the full mile after suffering from an allergic reaction in the same weekend while going against a generational talent in Ventura's (CA) Sadie Engelhardt, showed me she's in a different zone this season. 

This looks to be the first 3200m this season where LeBlond will have a competitor at a similar level. Ping comes with a wealth of championship racing experience and will surely be motivated to close out her high school career with one last state title to her name before she heads off to compete at Oklahoma State University next year. Despite the 20-second difference in season bests, you can't count out Ping. And that's why I feel this race is a true coin flip. It could go either way. I lean towards Ping.

One thing is guaranteed: it will be an entertaining meet.