LAKEWOOD - If Discovery Canyon's Jackson Spalding or Sand Creek's Mariah Walker felt any nerves Thursday when trying to repeat as Class 4A state shot put champions, they didn't show it.
In a field smeared with amped-up athletes, nervous performances and more overthrows than the 15th century, Spalding and Walker stayed calm and repeated to win gold in shot put during the first day of state track and field.
Spalding threw 58 feet, 9 inches to edge Sand Creek's Nathan Dunivan (55-1) for the second straight year in the boys' event, and Walker hit 47-1 to beat the girls' field by more than four feet at Jefferson County Stadium.
"You have to be strong to do this, sure, but success in shot is mostly due to your mental game," Spalding said. "You can't try to force things or get more worked up than usual on the big stage. Just go out and do what you did to get you here. That's what I did."
Spalding, who will throw at Air Force next season, came into the state meet ranked second in 4A shot put. On Thursday, he led throughout - starting with consistent throws around 56 feet in the first four rounds, and slowly built up to 58-9, which he tossed on his second-to-last attempt.
After his moment on the podium, the Thunder senior, strangely enough, admitted he had doubts about repeating gold this year. Although he won shot put and discus last season, there were a lot of questions surrounding Spalding's chance at repeating at the state meet after he "stepped wrong" during football season and tore his ACL.
"I had no expectations coming into this season. None," Spalding said. "I wanted to come out here and get myself back to where I need to be health-wise and help the team. I didn't know if I could come back and win state again so quick after surgery. I wasn't putting those expectations out because I had no idea."
Walker was quite the opposite. She had a laundry list of goals and expectations coming into the season, and she checked another one off after she won her second consecutive 4A girls' shot put title.
When asked about her feelings on repeating in the event, the soon-to-be Colorado Buffalo had a hard time articulating a journey that started as an afterthought, but led to one of Colorado's finest high school careers in recent memory.
"I didn't always want to do this, but once I got a little taste of success, I stayed with it," said Walker, who broke into tears after her final shot put throw. "Then the more success I got, the more it drove me. It was pretty emotional out there today, to realize that this part of my life is coming to an end. But now I'm hoping to hit 50 feet this summer."
First though, Walker will take aim at the 4A girls' discus Saturday, while her teammate, Dunivan, hopes to end Spalding's win streak and grab a state title in the 4A boys' field.
Spalding has the best discus throw in the state at 179-2. Dunivan is second in the state, a foot behind.
"He'll probably get me in discus," Spalding said, next to Dunivan.
"Yeah, I hope so," the Sand Creek senior smirked.
Liberty's Matt Simmons took second in the 5A discus finals on Thursday with a throw of 157-1.