Grant Mason considers himself a track runner who played football — not the other way around.
The Center Grove senior is so enthusiastic about moving fast over relatively short distances that he elected not to play for the Trojans’ Class 6A state runner-up squad this past fall.
“I would say it was in the middle of last spring that I started thinking about it,” Mason said. “I like football, but I love track.”
Mason, who qualified for the 2016 state meet in the 100- and 200-meter dashes — he placed ninth in the latter in a time of 22.38 seconds after clocking a 22.08 in the preliminaries — also was a part of the Trojans’ 400 relay team that placed seventh at state.
He will compete in these same events this spring.
The first day of practice for boys track was Feb. 13. Center Grove opens its outdoor season at the annual Columbus North Invitational on April 8.
Trojans coach Eric Moore, whose program has placed in the top four in total points at state five of the last six years (including a championship in 2011), knows having one of the state’s premier sprinters could go a long way toward another impressive finish.
“Grant is an excellent track athlete who possesses an extreme amount of speed and technique in the 100 and 200,” Moore said. “He’s also flexible enough to run in the relays, and is a kid who should win most of his races this season.
“His indoor times have truly been amazing. He’s going to be vital to our team’s success.”
Moore adds that Mason primarily ran the second leg of the 400 relay but was versatile enough to occasionally handle either leadoff or anchor duties last season.
By no longer playing football, Mason had the time to focus his efforts on track. He’s been training three times per week at Next Level Training in Indianapolis to improve his fast-twitch muscles, form, strength and technique out of the starting block.
If Mason’s recent indoor times are any indication, it’s been time well spent.
He’s lowered the Trojans’ indoor standards in the 55-meter dash (6.5 seconds) and 60-meter dash (6.96). On Feb. 18, Mason set a new meet record at the Indiana Runner Sprint Showcase at Wabash College by running the 200 in 22.69 seconds.
Mason has been invited to compete in the 60-meter dash at the prestigious New Balance Nationals Indoor from March 10 to 12. The event takes place at Armory Track and Field in New York City.
In January, Mason verbally committed to run men’s track at Lipscomb, a private Division I university of just under 3,000 students located in Nashville, Tennessee.
Mason, who carries a 3.1 grade-point average, will major in business marketing.
“Lipscomb has a smaller team, so you get a lot of individual attention,” Mason said. “And I love Nashville.”
He’ll be the fourth Center Grove student-athlete to part of a Nashville-based Division I program. The list already includes Belmont University men’s basketball player Michael Benkert, Vanderbilt University football player Cameron Tidd and Lipsomb women’s basketball player Lauren Rau.
How Grant Mason fared during the 2016 postseason:
100-meter dash: 1st at Columbus North Sectional (10.98); 3rd at Franklin Regional (11.39); 18th at state meet.
200-meter dash: 1st at Columbus North Sectional (22.32); 2nd at Franklin Regional (22.50); 9th at state meet (22.38).
400 relay: 1st at Columbus North Sectional (43.40); 2nd at Franklin Regional (42.33); 7th at state meet (42.42).