By: Eamon Hillis
When a season comes to an end, and an athlete is forced to reflect, the sense of accomplishment or failure they feel is often determined solely by the outcome of a single championship event. For McMaster’s Jeff Tweedle, this event was the U Sports Indoor Track and Field Championships in Edmonton, Alberta between March 9-11.
Tweedle qualified in both the 1000m and 1500m, and entered the meet as a top-three seed in both events. His chances at a national medal were as promising as they were precarious, and he knew this well.
In the 1000m, Tweedle’s first event of the competition, he chose to move to the lead early and to dictate the pace from the front. In choosing this strategy his goal was to force the rest of the field into an uncomfortable pace and to nullify the kicks of some of the faster finishers. His strategy worked well. Tweedle crossed the line in third place with a time of 2:25.85, capturing his first national medal as a Marauder.
“I’m very happy with how the 1000m turned out,” Tweedle said. “I thought I executed a pretty solid race plan and I was able to hold on for third place. My goal was just to get out in the front, race hard, and see what happens. I came in as confident and as fit as I’ve ever been.”
With only 24 hours of rest after his medal winning performance, Tweedle found himself back on the track to try again in the 1500m. Surprisingly, the race’s narrative unfolded similarly to the previous day. As is the case in many championship races, especially as the distances get longer, runners are reluctant to take the lead early because it requires more energy. When Tweedle found himself leading the race from the start however, he embraced the opportunity and committed to pushing the pace. With a lap to go he lost his lead and ultimately faded to a fifth place finish.
“In the 1500m I felt that I didn’t pick a winning strategy,” Tweedle said. “I kind of got pushed out to the front and instead of easing up to potentially get tripped up by the pack I decided to go to the lead. I felt I had some of the best speed in the field, and if it came down to a kick I would have a good chance.”
"My goal was just to get out in the front, race hard, and see what happens. I came in as confident and as fit as I've ever been."
McMaster track and field
Going in, McMaster’s track and field head coach Paula Schnurr believed that Tweedle’s best opportunity at medal was in the 1500m. Far from being disappointed in her athlete’s performance however, she understood the uncertainty of outcome that comes with championship racing.
“Something that became quite evident over the weekend was that Jeff was fearless,” Schnurr said. “He was definitely a more mature runner this time around, and going out hard to take the lead was something that he wasn’t afraid to do. It is often only hundredths of a second that separate the finishers in those championship races. Anybody can win at that level, so you just have to put yourself in a good position. Racing continues to be a learning experience for everyone, and I don’t think it ever stops being that.”
Schnurr is an accomplished middle-distance runner herself. The former Marauder is a two-time Olympian in the 1500m and enjoyed a long and successful career on the international circuit. Her unique perspective grants her the ability to mentor Tweedle as very few can.
“[Coach Schnurr] has a wealth of experience,” Tweedle said. “It is great to have a coach who has been to where you have been so often before. She’s raced in so many big championships herself that she can tell you about what it’s like. We have a great relationship that is very back and forth.”
Tweedle has now completed his final season of indoor track and field as a Marauder, but has chosen to return next fall for one semester in order to compete in cross country. For now he is staying focused on this summer’s outdoor season. The Canadian Track and Field Championships will take place July 3-9 in Ottawa, where he hopes to prove himself as one of the nation’s best young stars. Schnurr spoke highly of Tweedle’s dedication to the sport and believes he has the talent and disposition to compete at the very highest level one day.
“He’s one of those athletes that is so easy to coach,” Schnurr said. “He’s willing to do all the little things before and after practice, and based on his growth over the past three years I believe he possesses the qualities that will allow him to succeed in the championship races.”