CHARACTER COUNTS

Red Mountain’s Matt Hamilton faces adversity, leads with purpose

Oct 24, 2023, 5:01 AM

Selfless. Determined. Resilient.

These are all words to describe Red Mountain’s Matt Hamilton, one of Arizona’s top runners.

As a senior, Hamilton is a varsity athlete who’s competed with his school’s cross country and track team over the course of his high school career.

“Last year we won the track state championship, first time for the open division,” Hamilton said. “I’m a city champion, section champion. I’m a 4X800-meter state champion … I guess you can say I like running.”

Last fall, Hamilton was on the top of his game. He was winning races left and right and setting personal records. Come spring, Hamilton realized he couldn’t push himself like he normally could during the track season.

He was later diagnosed with runner’s anemia, a more severe form of iron deficiency that occurs when a runner doesn’t have enough iron in their blood.

“It really hit me. I took two (to) three weeks off … completely shut down. That road to being healthy again was really tough,” Hamilton said. “Obviously just mentally more than physically for me. Kind of get over that hump of ‘Can I push myself anymore?’ ‘Do I have the strength to do it again?'”

Matt Hamilton (left) poses for a photo with a teammate at a cross country meet.

It was certainly a blow to Hamilton and his game. Nonetheless, he relied on his brother, Joey Hamilton, a former runner at Red Mountain to help him overcome this adversity.

“He’s probably the strongest person mentally I think I’ve ever seen in my life,” Matt Hamilton said of his brother. “Going to him week in and week out just about the things that I’m thinking about, the things that pop up in my head, the adversities that are yet to come with passing this one.

“The brother connection you have is something that nobody can put a price on.”

During his recovery, Hamilton remained a leader on the sidelines. He showed up every day at practice, encouraging his teammates and continued to push them.

After nearly a full month of rest, Hamilton took his talents back out onto the track.

“It’s surreal that I was able to come back as quick as I could and did, but definitely that first race, it was really tough,” Hamilton said. “I didn’t really train the same way as I was hoping to, so the first race was definitely not one that was going down in the books but it was awesome to finally be back out there again.”

Off the track, Hamilton spends his time helping with Red Mountain’s Unified PE program. He’s spent more than 200 hours over the last two years working with students with special needs.

“It’s the most gratifying thing in my day. It always puts a smile on my face because I see the same kids day in and day out,” Hamilton said. “They don’t get the opportunities that we get. I’m blessed to be able to do what I do and at the level that I do it at and I can’t describe how important it is for me to see them smile and be happy about just making a basket in basketball.

“Just seeing those kids every day is so important to me.”

In addition to working with the school’s Unified PE program, Hamilton enjoys giving back to the community. He plays sports with elementary school kids from Red Mountain’s feeder programs during the school day and donates time with his team at Feed My Starving Children.

“It’s so important to give back to your community, and not only your community but other places around the world,” Hamilton said. “Seeing that you’re making an impact in Asia, South Africa and North Africa, it’s crazy. Knowing the impact that we make … we only give up an hour, hour and a half of our time but it’s meals for those kids for the next two, three, four weeks.”

After graduating high school, Hamilton plans to pursue a degree in exercise science or kinesiology. He’d use it for personal training, whether it’s helping with special needs and the Special Olympics or on the personal side with a sports team.

Nonetheless, after all the adversity, he wants to continue running wherever his journey takes him.

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