The night before the NJSIAA indoor track Meet of Champions, Paul VI coach Kashif Miller — a 2014 individual Meet of Champions winner in the 55-meter dash with Haddon Heights — had looked over senior Michael Mazero’s competition in the 400-meter dash.
An interesting thought popped into his head.
“That night before, I was just thinking about what that next day would be like, and I thought to myself, how cool would it be for a coach who has won an indoor Meet of Champions event to have a runner on one of his teams go out and do the same thing,” Miller said. “It’s something I pondered and brought up to him before the race …
“I told him to go out there and win it.”
Sure enough, Mazero crossed the finish line for an indoor personal record of 49.02 to claim his first career Meet of Champions victory. He became the program’s first indoor MOC winner, with only the other three individual winners in Paul VI history having done so outdoors. Mazero’s 49.02 ranks as the 14th fastest time in the MOC event, the 16th fastest in South Jersey history and the fifth fastest in Camden County history.
For that, Mazero is South Jersey Sports Weekly’s 2021-2022 Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.
Mazero entered his senior track season with more determination than he had in years prior, his eyes fixed on winning the 400-meter race after finishing fourth in the outdoor Meet of Champions last season.
“I told myself that I probably had a really good chance of placing in the top three, if not winning,” Mazero said. “In December, just thinking about it. It did kind of feel unreal to try and reach. But once February rolled around and I was running more 400s, it started to become a lot more realistic.”
Mazero qualified for the Champions meet three seasons ago as part of Paul VI’s 4-by-400 relay team in both indoor and outdoor, before also qualifying in sophomore year. But he was unable to run after getting sick shortly before the race.
The feeling of coming so close that year has since stuck in Mazero’s mind. But the same motivation that helped him land fourth place at the meet during the outdoor season of his junior year also provided the spark he needed this year.
“I still kind of kick myself about it, because it’s just a giant ‘what if’ in my head,” he said of the race he couldn’t run. “But I learned from it; I’m not the first to go through something like that, but it helped me get to be the runner that I am today.
“I felt like we kind of missed a golden opportunity for what we could’ve done my sophomore year,” Mazero added, “but that ended up being what fueled me throughout much of my training during the pandemic and junior year as a whole.”
Mazero’s determination and work ethic, Miller said, helps set him apart from the rest – as a runner and teammate.
“I always tell my runners that they should do what sets you apart from the rest, outwork other schools, other teams and even your teammates, in a friendly, competitive environment,” Miller said. “That’s something I see in him (Mazero), going the extra mile to be the best that he can be and passing along some of his knowledge to the younger runners on the team.”