Red Mountain junior Tyler Mathews in the 800m final at the AIA State Track & Field Championships this past weekend at Mesa Community College. Mathews ran a US No. 1 time of 1:48.72 to win the race.
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MESA, AZ -- In a fitting end to what some may call the greatest single season ever of high school track and field in Arizona, five state records were set (or in some cases, re-broken) at the AIA State Track & Field Championships held at Mesa Community College.
It was the first year of the new format for the state meet, which included athletes for every single division at one championship -- and the results were incredible.
A DQ, then a state record (and another)
One of the most anticipated races heading into the weekend was the showdown in the girls 100m hurdles between Williams Field senior Saira Prince (the state record-holder in the event) and Hamilton junior Kori Martin. But, in a stunning turn of events, Prince false started in her preliminary heat and was disqualified. Martin led the prelim heats with a smooth-looking 13.97.
About an hour and a half later, Prince lined up for the 300mH prelims. And history was made as Prince ran 41.08 to win her heat and re-break her state record of 41.24, set at the Arcadia Invitational earlier this spring.
Not to be outdone by herself, about 24 hours later, Prince became the first Arizona athlete to ever dip under 41 seconds in the 300mH as she won the state title in a time of 40.90. That time is ranked fourth in the country and is a picturesque ending for the Arizona State University-bound senior, especially considering she was told by doctors before this season that she was never going to run again (you can find out more about that in our interview right here) after a neck injury.
The next one up?
While Prince has firmly established herself as a name to remember, Martin is making a run on the record books herself as she won the 100mH in wind-legal 13.61 -- which is AZ No. 3 all-time. Prince has the record at 13.58. Martin will have one more season to lower that mark.
There's another Martin to keep an eye on moving forward as Sunnyslope freshman Aniyah Martin ran 42.86 in the prelims, which broke the freshman state record held by Betty H. Fairfax's Ma'kayla Dickerson (who was the overall state record holder until this season). In the finals, Martin finished third in 43.13 to earn a podium spot.
With three seasons left in her career, the 300mH state record may not be safe for long. Here's our interview with her.
The middle-distance program at Red Mountain: 'The Mathews Effect'
It's no secret that Red Mountain junior Tyler Mathews is one of the fastest half-milers in the nation as he entered the weekend with the state record at 1:49.32. The rest of the Mountain Lions are benefiting from that as the boys 4x800m relay set a new state record, running 7:41.40 to eclipse the old record of 7:42.16 by Highland.
Red Mountain made the tactical decision to have Mathews lead off the relay after watching him get stuck in the exchange zone as the anchor at the Arcadia Invitational.
That decision paid off in a big way as Mathews got a clean track and was able to split 1:48 to give his team a huge lead. Senior William Bergman and junior Roman Smith both held firm in their legs and handed off to anchor junior Matthew Hamilton in the lead, who brought it home for the Mountain Lions.
The next day, Mathews was entered in the 1600m and 800m. Mathews only recently started seriously running the 1600m after focusing on the 800m for most of his high school career. He has quickly asserted himself as the state's best miler as he came in seeded at the top at 4:13.
Using his keen racing awareness, Mathews came in the back of the pack after the first lap before slowly working his way up into the bell lap -- where he deployed his signature 400m speed to win the race in a personal best of 4:12.11.
Having expended more energy than he anticipated in the 1600m, Mathews' coach -- Steven Selby -- gave him two options before the 800m: sit and kick for the win, or go out hard for a PR. Mathews, wanting to make a statement to his fellow national competition, chose the ladder.
And he did so in spectacular fashion, running a US No. 1 time of 1:48.72. That time takes away the national lead from Newbury Park senior Aaron Sahlman, whom Mathews finished second to at the Arcadia Invitational.
It should also be noted that the 800m race was arguably the deepest in state history as six boys ran 1:52 or faster. Eighth place finished in 1:54.36. Seven of the top 8 finishers recorded personal bests: we'll call that "The Mathews Effect."
"The Bear" bears down one last time
If you have ever seen Mountain Pointe senior Jayden Davis run a race, then you know what it looks like.
His long strides eat up the track unlike any other sprinter I've seen as he uses his lengthy frame to his advantage. It's why he has earned the nickname "The Bear." Davis was already the state record holder in the 400m entering the state meet as he lowered it last weekend at the AIA Division II Championships down to 46.37.
So the question became, really, how low can he go? In every single scored 400m race this spring, Davis has run a personal best. That didn't change this weekend as Davis once again lowered his state record in the final, running 46.25.
Davis was also the top seed for the 200m, but opted to scratch that event with the accumulation of last week's divisional championships adding up as the ASU commit had run 10 races in a week.
The 46.25 ends Davis' career in a Mountain Pointe uniform and puts him .22 seconds ahead of the old state record holder, Desert Vista's Spencer Chase.
From a walking boot to a state record holder
This spring has been filled with jaw-dropping performances. But perhaps the most impressive one is the most unexpected one.
Nine weeks ago, Queen Creek senior Catherine Littlewood was in a walking boot following surgery to fix a Jones' fracture in her foot. It was looking unlikely she was going to compete this season, let alone at the level she was at before the injury.
That proved to be completely wrong as Littlewood was able to recover in time and compete in her first meet of the season on April 26. She qualified for the AIA Division Championships last week, where she won the long jump at 20-0.
Momentum was building heading into this week's AIA State Championships, but even she didn't expect what came next.
In a moment that should be talked about for quite some time, Littlewood uncorked a huge jump of 20-7 to set a new Arizona state record in the event. All things considered -- the injury, the surgery, the physical rehab, the mental anguish over not competing -- makes this record one of the most incredible ones of the season.
Littlewood, who just committed to being a heptathlete at Stanford University, also competed in the 400m (3rd place, 57.12), 4x100m relay (4th place, 47.49) and 100mH (4th place, 14.25).
All in all, the first year of the AIA "Open" State Track & Field Championships produced some all-time efforts.
Red Mountain: 45 points
Desert Vista: 41 points
Mesa Mountain View: 31 points
Highland: 58 points
Queen Creek: 56 points
Hamilton: 51 points