SOUTH WEBSTER — Over the past decade, the talent inside the Southern Ohio Conference — from a cross country and track standpoint — has grown immensely.
That’s evident in multiple facets — in talent, in numbers, and in the parity of results among the teams competing in the conference.
South Webster product Mason Blizzard is one of those student-athletes who has assisted greatly in beefing up the competition level inside the SOC.
The graduate, a four-time Southern Ohio Conference (SOC) champion between cross country and track and field, marks another stout addition to a terrific recruiting class for Shawnee State — and longtime head coach Eric Putnam.
“It means the world to me,” Blizzard said. “I already have so many friends on the team that I am close to, and have been close to for a while now, so it really helps a lot to have them there to help me out through the beginning of my journey. I’m very excited for what my collegiate career holds.”
From the outset, Blizzard proved to be an important scoring piece for South Webster’s cross country and track programs.
In 2016, Blizzard helped South Webster win the SOC Cross Country championship with his performance as a scorer on the unit, and ran a 20:46 in the 5K at the OHSAA Division III Southeast District championship to finish 94th.
Blizzard then scored four top-five finishes during the spring season on the track, and teamed with Ethan Lore, current SSU soccer athlete Michael Andrews and Paul Hagen to collect a third-place finish in the SOC meet in the 4-by-800 meter relay (9:04.5).
At the Division III Southeast District championship, those Jeeps ran an 8:41.85 for first-place and a district title in that event.
South Webster’s boys track unit also won a conference championship for its efforts.
As a sophomore, Blizzard continued progressing as a runner, finishing sixth in the 2017 SOC meet by running a time of 18:09 to collect first-team all-SOC honors as a result — and bettering his district championship cross country time by nearly two full minutes in a year’s time en route to an 18:53 and a 32nd-place finish.
That same spring, Blizzard proved himself as a strong performer in the 800-meter and 1,600-meter runs.
Following five top-seven finishes during regular season and conference championship competition between the two distance running events, Blizzard turned up the heat in both at the 2018 OHSAA Division III Southeast District championships — winning the 1,600-meters (4:41.14) and notching a second-place showing in the 800-meters (2:09.12) and qualifying for regional competition in both where he scored top-15 finishes.
As a junior, Blizzard bumped up his performance even further — finishing 28th after posting a time of 19:33 at the OHSAA Division III Southeast District meet.
He followed that performance with four runner-up finishes and two regional qualifications between the 800 and 1,600 meters by placing eighth (2:08.96) and fourth (4:42.26), respectively, and at the Division III Region 11 meet, Blizzard ran a 4:41.38 in the 1,600 to finish eighth and a 2:07.37 in the 800 to finish 12th.
Blizzard closed out his career with a 13th-place finish at the SOC championship last fall and a 35th-place finish (18:39) in the Division III Southeast District championship, earning second-team all-SOC honors for his performance in the former.
For Blizzard, the opportunity to run against his fellow SOC counterparts — including incoming recruits Phillip Evory (Waverly), Aidan Judd (Waverly) and Alex Morris (Valley) — among others, was a great pleasure.
Then, of course, there’s the idea of representing the Red and White that is South Webster.
“Competing as a Jeep has helped me grow so much as a runner and a person,” Blizzard said. “I’ve had great coaches who were always there to answer even the silliest questions I’d have about running. They were like family. They just treat us kids on the team like their own. Competing inside the SOC these past couple of seasons has been intense. A lot of competition arose out of nowhere. It was definitely expected though. We have some very talented athletes in our conference and it has done nothing but help me improve. I always rose to the competition. Just having that extra competition to run against is what helped me become a better runner. It helped me most with my confidence.”
Along with running, Blizzard, who participated in Select Chorus while in high school, also has a special place in his heart for those in need.
He plans to turn his education at SSU into a career in the special education field — and wants to continue to build the tradition that the cross country and track and field programs have set on a yearly basis.
“My goal is to get through college with a strong GPA,” Blizzard said. “In cross country, I’d love to help my team score as good as we can at the national level.”
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