East's Jason Zahm ready to take on uncommon combination of events

Mar. 16—CHEYENNE — Jason Zahm expected to be a busy man today. Instead, a snowstorm canceled the Murray Kula Invitational track and field meet Cheyenne East was supposed to attend in Windsor, Colorado.

Zahm, a senior, could have been entered in shot put and discus — both events he competed in last spring — as well as the 100-meter dash and 4x100 relay.

It's an uncommon combination of events, but Zahm is eager to take on the challenge.

"I ran the 800 and the mile when we lived in Louisiana, but I have a big frame and a lot of muscle, so sprints are going to be easier," he said with a smile. "I loved those other events because it was a challenge getting around the track that many times as a bigger guy, but I'm ready to try something new."

Zahm knows he can be an outlier with his new events, especially at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds. However, he has the speed necessary to be a sprinter. East has done testing over the first few weeks of practice that measured its athletes' speed in miles per hour. Zahm was first among the Thunderbirds boys during the first round of testing and fourth the second time around.

He checked in north of 21 mph both times, but jokingly notes he was at a disadvantage during the second round.

"I didn't have spikes on the second time we did it. I might have beaten Colby (Olson's 22 mph) outdoors if I had spikes on that day," Zahm said with a grin. "It's whatever, though."

Going from middle distance running to sprints is quite a change, but Zahm is accustomed to adjusting and acclimating.

He has lived in Montana and North Dakota, but his family spent more than five years living in Bossier, Louisiana, before relocating to Cheyenne in June 2022. Going from 174 feet of elevation to nearly 6,100 wasn't easy.

"Down there, I felt like a million bucks and like I could go forever," he said. "I came up here and it was a little aggravating. I felt short of breath and got tired faster.

"I thought of myself as a pretty good athlete when it came to strength and speed. I still had those things, but it was hard to breath and my stamina wasn't what it was before."

East boys track coach Jesse Blunn is also an assistant for the football team. It was apparent during Zahm's junior campaign he was capable of contributing on the gridiron if he could acclimate to the altitude enough to stay on the field for more than a couple plays at a time.

"You could tell it was bothering him," Blunn said. "He'd look completely gassed and be pale as a ghost. As soon as he caught his breath, he was ready to go again.

"He's the type of kid who wants to work hard and will run through a brick wall if you tell him to."

Blunn has seen athletes shy away from running events after their physiques mature and become more muscular. Although Zahm isn't fond of running, he's willing to do it.

"It gets harder for some guys to move around the track the bigger they get," Blunn said. "The fact he's still willing to take on those events is a credit to him and how hard he's working. He's always asking what workouts we're going to do and challenging himself.

"It's a credit to him. He comes to practice ready to work."

Zahm wasn't needed as a sprinter last season. The T-Birds were loaded with talent that broke the school 4x100 record before injuries derailed that team. That group has since graduated and left a void on East's roster. As a result, Zahm isn't going to be the T-Birds' only unconventional sprinter this season.

He expects to be joined on the 4x100 team by Olson (6-foot-1, 190), Kolbe Dierks (6-0, 190) and Caleb Ruff (6-1, 200). All four young men were some combination of linemen and linebackers for East's Class 4A runner-up football squad.

"A lot of people are going to think we're going to be slow when they see how big and muscular our relay is going to be," Zahm said with a smile. "But we have some guys on that team who can move. We might shock a lot of people because a couple of us are pretty fast."

Zahm isn't sure what he's doing immediately after graduation. He thought he was headed to Laramie County Community College to knock out a few years of college before attending the police academy. However, former East teammate Trevor Eldridge has Zahm considering enrolling at the University of Wyoming and joining him on the Cowboys rugby squad.

No matter where the next few years take Zahm, a career as a police officer is the goal.

"People don't really like policemen as much now days, but they are needed more," he said. "I really want to defend and protect people and help people feel safe."

Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at jjohnke@wyosports.net or 307-633-3137. Follow him on X at @jjohnke.