BY: Gerry Swan
“I’ll definitely be competing at this year’s Harry Jerome track meet,” was the quick assurance given by Michael Mason Canada’s long time international high jump competitor in a telephone interview.
This year’s Harry Jerome meet takes place at Swangard Stadium on Thursday evening, June 20 and Mason is looking forward to the meet. “I was scheduled to travel to Rome next week for a meet but wanted to be ready for the Jerome by being fully recovered from a tweak in my leg so declined the European trip. Swangard is one of my favorite venues and you might say my early performances at that Burnaby location got me on my way to being an international competitor.”
Indeed Mason brought his natural talent for high jumping to the attention of everyone at the 2002 BC High School Track and Field Championships held that year at, guess where, Swangard Stadium. At the time Mason was a 16-year old grade 10 athlete who represented Vancouver Island’s Ballenas Secondary and on that sunny Saturday afternoon he cleared the high jump bar at the phenomenal height for a boy of his age and year at 2.12 meters (6’11 ½”). That mark broke the then high school record of 2.11 meters that had been set in 1974 by Vancouver Tech’s Greg Joy who would go on to win the high jump silver medal (and Canada’s only medal in track and field) at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Two year’s later (2004) and then in grade 12, Mason again won his specialty at the school championships with a leap of 2.12 meters to establish a mark that remains the BC High School record.
Mason was introduced to the sport of high jumping when as a 10 year old he became a member of Oceanside Track Club an organization located close to his parents home located on the Beach of Nanoose Bay. A fellow teammate demonstrated to him how to do the Brill Bend and after the young Mason gave it a try he decided that that was the track and field event for him. “For the next couple of years during the spring and summer months I competed in local meets and took part in several events but high jumping was always where I had the most success so just naturally gravitated to that event,” stated Mason.
In his first appearance at the provincial school championships, Mason was introduced to Abbotsford’s high jump coach Ziggy Szelagowicz. For the next two years Mason would make monthly weekend trips from his Vancouver Island home to Abbotsford for sessions with Szelagowicz and those get-togethers set the basis of his early years mastery of the event.
Following high school graduation Mason spent one year at the University of Kentucky but decided that the American system was not for him. But the summer of that year he was selected to represent Canada at the World Junior Championships in Grosseto, Italy and it was at that fixture that Mason secured international recognition by winning the gold medal. Mason remembers the competition as a tight competitive affair with a number of jumpers clearing the same height of 2.21 meters. It took a jump off and then a count back to decide the winner. “After our final jumps it didn’t actually dawn on me that I was the gold medalist until a number of my fellow competitors came over to shake my hand,” stated Mason.
Following the World Championships Mason enrolled at UBC the school from which he graduated. While at West Point Grey, Mason competed for the Thunderbirds at the NAIA Championships winning the high jump in three consecutive years and establishing the meet record in 2006 at a height of 2.22 meters that he still holds.
Mason has been a Canadian international for many years and has competed throughout the world. Beside his World Junior Championship win, Mason’s other notable performances came in 2006 with a bronze medal (2.19m) at NACAC (under 23 world championships), a silver medal at the 2009 University World Championships (2.23), a bronze medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games (2.25m), a silver medal at the Toronto Pan Am Games (2.31) and a silver medal at the 2018 Toronto NACAC Championships (2.28m).
Mike still enjoys competing and he has the support of his wife Janessa and parents Carol and Robert. For the last few years former Indiana University coach and now Canadian National Coach Jeff Huntoon directs Mike’s program. “Jeff understands me and most importantly as a coach he is technically very good. Jeff coaches Derek Drouin the 2016 Olympic Champion when he attended Indiana and continues to be his coach He keeps me stress free and is always devising ways in which I can improve.”
Mike is a member of the Nanaimo Track Club and states that organization has given him excellent support. I can’t ask for more from a track and field club and appreciate the support that I am afforded.
What keeps Mike involved over so many years of demanding training, traveling and competing? “I enjoy the event and the challenges of competition. Have become a student of the event and am learning what I can do with my body that will help me improve. Most of all it is the process of always trying to improve that makes taking part in the high jump worthwhile.”
Mike will put his jumping skills to the test at this year’s Harry Jerome meet in yet another competition being staged at the same venue in which 17-years ago he recorded a performance that marked him as the potential world class jumper that he became.
Jerome Classic tickets available at www.harryjerome.com