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Red Mountain shines, other Mesa athletes medal at state

May 18—There was little doubt Red Mountain's boys' track & field team wouldn't come away with the state title in the 4x800 relay Saturday, May 11 at the AIA Open Division state championship meet.

It's been the Mountain Lions' best event all season, mixed in with some individual events that also saw Red Mountain come away with medals.

This year, however, the state was on record watch in the 4x800. Red Mountain was confident it could reach that mark. But at the very least, they planned to come away with one more state title in the event before three of them graduate.

That's exactly what they did. The Mountain Lions ran a 7:47.87 4x800 relay, about two seconds off the record set in 2008 by Desert Vista. But the team of Roman Smith, Matthew Hamilton, Ryan Martin and Tyler Mathews, who ran the anchor and won the individual 800 title as well as the 1600, came away with gold.

"What can I say that hasn't been said about this kid," Red Mountain distance coach Steve Selby said in a post on X. "Tyler Mathews just finished his high school career with 13 gold medals from the state meet. Nine individual and four relay. Let that sink in. Greatness."

It was a good showing overall for the Mountain Lions. Along with Mathews' 800 win, Hamilton placed fourth in the race. Those two, along with other events, allowed the Mountain Lions to place fourth overall as a team one year after winning the title.

On the girls' side, M'Tima Hamilton impressed in the triple jump, placing third overall with a mark of 37-feet, 5.50 inches. Coco Velasquez placed third in javelin.

There were several other notable performances from Mesa-area athletes during the state meet.

Austin Taylor of Desert Ridge won the state title in the javelin with a final throw of 185-feet, 8 inches. His teammate, Greyson Farthing, placed sixth.

Kai Espinosa-Golinski was feeling good coming into the state meet having just won the Division I title in the 3200-meter run a week prior. When he crossed the finish line at the division meet, he put his hands in the air and was nearly moved to tears.

He placed fourth overall at the state meet. Not as good as he had hoped but he remained proud of himself, nonetheless.

"Honestly, I'm grateful," Espinosa-Golinski said. I'm grateful to be here and grateful to be able to compete. I've put in a lot of work to be here. My teammates supported me, my family supported me."

Espinosa-Golinski embraced Eastmark's Bryson Nielsen following the race. The two shared a long hug, some words of encouragement and congratulation before parting ways.

They've been running at different divisions all four years of high school, but they've become familiar with one another and their craft. Nielsen placed first overall, something Espinosa-Golinski said he was happy for him for.

"I'm just grateful to compete with such amazing guys," Espinosa-Golinski said. "To be out here, it's an amazing place. It feels good to be putting Westwood on the map. Next year I'm going to come out stronger and really show everybody what Westwood is about."

Nielson couldn't help but let out a resounding, "I am all of me," as he crossed the finish line.

That five-word line has meaning to Nielsen. He is only as good as he wants to be. Saturday, at the state meet, he wanted to be a state champion. So, he made it happen.

"I choose how I take my path," Nielsen said. "I feel like the path I took all season helped me execute here. I've been waiting for this moment, to win a state championship for my school. It means a lot for me."

The state title from Nielsen was the first for Eastmark in any running events. The school currently holds some swim titles, as well as football from two years ago.

But the track & field team has only gotten better since the school opened in 2019. Nielsen, who is a junior, has been a major reason for that. He finished fourth in cross country last fall.

But in the spring, he wasn't settling for anything less than a championship.

"I am on top," Nielsen said. "Right now, I am considered the best here in Arizona. It's not guaranteed tomorrow, but it's guaranteed tonight. I can definitely say that."