Zariah Mason, a sophomore sprinter from Kim High School, was named the Class 1A girls’ track Athlete of the Year by the Colorado High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) after winning two individual events and taking the lead on two relay teams that also won state championships for the small school in eastern Las Animas County.
The state track tournament was held on May 20-21 at JeffCo Stadium in Lakewood.
The Mason family lives in Trinidad and Zariah commutes to school in Branson and participates in basketball, volleyball and track for the Kim / Branson Mustangs. Her mother, Kimberly, is the business manager for the Kim School District and said she was very proud of her daughter and the other members of the girls’ track team for what they have accomplished. Zariah also has two brothers, Zion, age 15, and Zephyn, age 12, who both attend the Branson Schools and love to compete in track, football and basketball.
“I’m very proud of Zariah,” Kimberly said in a Tuesday phone call. “We were able to go the state tournament at JeffCo Stadium and it was very exciting. She’s very close to her coach, Justin Winford, who also coaches the girls’ basketball team.”
Zariah won both the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes, breaking state records in both events. She won the 100-meter in 12.52 seconds, breaking her own state record that she set at last year’s state tournament, and won the 200-meter in 25.81 seconds.
The Kim / Branson girls’ sprint relay team consists of Mason, fellow sophomore Ashley Yergert, freshman Tori Goode and senior Taylor Nittler. The team won the 4x100-meter relay with a time of 52.48 seconds, and also took the 800-meter sprint medley with a time of 1:54.03, according to the Kim Schools website at: www.kimk12.org.
Zariah said during a Tuesday phone call that she enjoyed participating in the state track tournament with her teammates.
“It was very exciting to be in the state track tournament for the second,” Zariah said. “There was a huge crowd there and we all had a great time. I love running and going to all of the meets, traveling with my teammates and meeting new people. I’m very close to my coach, Justin Winford, who’s been a great help to me. I would like to run track while I’m in college.”
Zariah’s success has attracted attention from bigger high schools that would like her to a part of their sports programs, Kimberly said.
“We’ve heard from lots of high school coaches who would like Zariah to transfer to their schools, but she’s going to go to school in Branson because this area is where our family lives,” she said.
At least one college has also expressed interest in recruiting Zariah for their track program, but her mom said going to high school is her daughter’s top priority right now.
“We’ve had some discussions with the people from the track program at Adams State University, but it’s a little early for that. We want to make sure that she’s fully acclimated to high school for right now, and only then get serious about college recruiting.”
Mason was named to the First Team of the 2016 Girls’ Class 1A All-State Team in all four of the events she participated in, where she was joined by Goode, Nittler and Yergert in the relay and sprint medley races.
The Kim / Branson girls were unable to compete in the 4x200-meter relay because Zariah had already run in four events, which is CHSAA’s limit for track athletes in state competition. The Mustangs don’t field a complete track and field team due to a limited number of athletes, but the team finished in eighth place among 56 teams who competed in the state Class 1A tournament.
The small school atmosphere in Branson and Kim suits Zariah like a glove, she said.
“I really think it makes it easier by going to a smaller school,” she said. “You get a lot more individual time with your teachers, and you can get very close to the other students.”
Her coach, Justin Winford, said in a Tuesday phone call that Zariah was an outstanding person and student-athlete.
“She’s just a great kid who works very hard at whatever she does,” Winford said. “She travels from their home in Trinidad to Branson to go to school, and then travels to Kim a couple of times a week for practice, so she has shown a great sense of commitment to what she does. Zariah’s a super nice kid, although she’s very quiet. She does anything you ask her to do, and she does it very well.”
In other local sports news, Darian Lujan of the Trinidad High School Mighty Miners football team will play on the South Team in the Colorado High School Coaches Association (CHSCA) Football All State game at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 10, at Rex Stadium on the campus of Adams State University in Alamosa.