Cross country head coach received national honours after first victory at U Sports championship since 1963 

McMaster cross country head coach Paula Schnurr was named the U Sports men’s Fox 40 Coach of the Year following this year’s national championships on Nov. 12. Winning their first title since 1963, the men placed first in the country while the women finished seventh overall.  

Before leading the cross country staff, Schnurr was a decorated athlete for the Marauders, earning 28 provincial medals in the Ontario Women’s Interuniversity Athletic Association.  

In 1988, Schnurr set the national record for the women’s 1,500 metre race with her time of 4:16:41. That same year, Schnurr was named the top performer at the Canadian Inter-university Athletic Union championships, she was given her fourth Thérèse Quigley award for McMaster’s best female athlete of the year and was inducted into the McMaster athletics hall of fame.  

Schnurr’s talents brought her to the international stage, making two appearances for Canada’s Summer Olympics team in 1992 and 1996. At the 1994 Commonwealth Games, Schnurr collected a silver medal in the 1,500 metre event.  

In 2010, Schnurr assumed the role of head coach for McMaster’s cross country program. Over the last few years, Schnurr and the men’s cross-country team have developed into household names atop the national leaderboards. 

The men recorded their first Ontario University Athletics gold under Schnurr’s tenure in 2018, led by a gold medal outing from then-sophomore runner Max Turek. Following their performance, Schnurr received the OUA award for the men’s cross country coach of the year, making history as the award’s first-ever female recipient.  

That season, the men earned bronze at the national U Sports championships, missing second place by a five point margin to the Guelph Gryphons. Most recently, the men captured provincial silver and national bronze in 2021 to continue an illustrious stretch of seasons for the team. 

Prior to this year’s championships, Schnurr brought the men and women’s teams to OUA excellence, winning gold and silver respectively before heading into nationals. Coming in as the top team in the national power rankings, the men closed out a phenomenal season by securing the U Sports title.  

On route to his third U Sports athlete of the week award, Turek completed an exceptional year after finishing the race in first with a time of 24:21. His run marks a perfect season for the Marauders, who also received gold medals in the Western Invitational, the Marauder Bayfront Open and the OUA championships

Andrew Davies and Alex Drover placed third and fifth respectively to give the Marauders  three runners in the top five. Dylan Alick finished the race in thirteenth place with a time of 25:10, while Sam Nusselder’s showing of 25:14 was good for fifteenth overall. Self-titled “The Flying V”, the five’s total of 37 was good for 78 points above the second-placed Laval Rouge et Or.  

“It’s been a four, five year process for this group because they’ve come through the team together. Each year they were improving and getting so close . . . so [winning nationals] was really the focus all season,” said Schnurr.  

It’s been a four, five year process for this group because they’ve come through the team together. Each year they were improving and getting so close. . . so [winning nationals] was really the focus all season.

Paula Schnurr, Head Coach

On the women’s side, OUA bronze medalist Rosalyn Barrett was the top runner for McMaster, coming in thirtieth with a time of 30:20. Hannah Goodjohn and Sarah Nolan recorded thirty-sixth and fifty-first finishes on the way to a seventh place team performance with 222 points. The Rouge et Or scored 49 points to win the women’s title.  

After the races, Turek, Davies and Drover were named First Team All-Canadians, while Alick was awarded Second Team honours. Schnurr was given the Fox 40 Coach of the Year award for helping the Marauders to their first national title in 59 years.  

“The goal is to help my athletes get better and the team get better. If I get recognized for the little part I play because they were the ones out running, then it’s a nice honour . . . When you have talented athletes, they make any coach look good,” said Schnurr. 

The goal is to help my athletes get better and the team get better. If I get recognized for the little part I play because they were the ones out running, then it’s a nice honour. . . When you have talented athletes, they make any coach look good.

Paula Schnurr, Head Coach

With their top five runners graduating this year, the men’s team successfully capitalized on their immense wealth of talent with a championship banner. Going forward, the program looks to continue its dominance and develop its youth under Schnurr’s expertise and mentorship. 

C/O McMaster Marauders, Sherbrooke Athletics

Jessica Pearo-Rawlins is one of the newest inductees into the McMaster Sports Hall of Fame

Jessica Pearo-Rawlins is one of 2021’s four inductees into the McMaster Sports Hall of Fame. Immediately after the mandatory 10-year waiting period from which she graduated from McMaster, she was nominated and then selected by the Hall of Fame committee.

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Pearo-Rawlins is one of the most decorated athletes, not only in cross-country, but in all of Marauders’ history. Pearo-Rawlins spent four years at McMaster studying Kinesiology from 2007 to 2011, where she earned many well-deserved accolades for both athletics and academics. During her time at McMaster, Pearo-Rawlins was named an Academic All-Canadian for three consecutive years, was awarded the female student-athlete community service award in 2009 and maintained the Queen Elizabeth II Aiming for the Top Scholarship for all four years.  

Athletics-wise, Pearo-Rawlins was the first female Marauder to win an OUA gold medal in 2010. In addition, she became the first Marauder to win an individual gold medal at a CIS cross-country final in a five-kilometer run over hilly terrain. In addition, she is a two-time CIS first-team all-Canadian, three-time OUA first-team all-star and was named McMaster Female Athlete of the Year twice.  

Back in 2011 in an interview with Daily News McMaster, Pearo-Rawlins explained that she was applying to physiotherapy graduate school, with the goal being to earn a master of physiotherapy at the University of Toronto. In the interview, Pearo-Rawlins explained that she hoped to one day run her own clinic and help athletes such as herself. Now, around 10 years later, her goal has become a reality with the opening of Prospect Physiotherapy in 2021.  

“I worked at a great clinic called Lifespring to do therapy for about eight years and then transitioned into my own practice now, [for] which I've had a lot of help along the way. But that's sort of been my goal that I've been working towards so it's super exciting now that it's actually happened,” said Pearo-Rawlins.  

She and her two coworkers each have their niche of athletes that they work with and Pearo-Rawlins focuses on runners such as herself. Currently, she works with the Newmarket Huskies Track Club and other local distance runners.  

“They sort of sought me out just because of my background in the sport so just being able to treat patients that you are well acquainted with the type of injuries that they've had is very helpful for them just to be able to feel like I know what they're going through,” explained Pearo-Rawlins.  

"They sort of sought me out just because of my background in the sport so just being able to treat patients that you are well acquainted with the type of injuries that they've had is very helpful for them just to be able to feel like I know what they're going through,"

Jessica Pearo-Rawlins, 2021 McMaster Sports Hall of Fame Inductee

Something that has greatly helped Pearo-Rawlins during her time as a varsity athlete was the presence of supportive friends, family and coaches and this still carries forward today with the new challenges that come with opening her own practice.  

“I tended to be anxious until he'd arrive at the course. And honestly, he wouldn't say much; it would just be like a hug and then I just felt like I could calm down. And so honestly, even carrying through into today like opening a clinic and a business is a big thing and just having that family support from really everybody in my life: my husband, my father-in-law [and] my dad, again just being that ear. I feel like I'm somebody who needs to vent a lot and talk things out and just have those people in my life that are able to hear me and talk me down,” explained Pearo-Rawlins. 

While cross-country is a sport of individuals, it is the contributions of family members, fellow team members and coaches Rory Sneyd and Paula Schnurr that helped shape Pearo-Rawlins into the incredible athlete, businesswoman and physiotherapist she is today.  

Photo by Maxine Gravina / Digital Media Specialist 

The 2019 U Sports Championship Cross Country Tournament was held last weekend on Nov. 9. Both the men’s and women’s teams travelled to Kingston for the tournament, which is widely regarded as the most important event of the year for cross country. Both teams put as much as they could into this tournament, knowing how important it was. The men’s team managed to place second overall. The first place seat went to the University of Calgary Dinos, who were the defending champions. The women’s team finished 13th. 

Team Captain Caroline Forbes led the pack for the Women’s team achieving 27th overall at the tournament. This was an astounding 47 spots ahead of where she finished last year and was awarded the Pink’s Burgers athlete of the week for her accomplishment. Forbes is only a second-year runner yet is one of the team’s most accomplished athletes, she goes to show how in a year or two the women’s team has a great chance of going the distance and medaling at the U Sports Championship. Having such a young team can certainly be challenging, but the sky is the limit for the women’s team.

Leading up to nationals, men’s team veteran runner Max Turek and head coach Paula Schnurr revealed their preparation for the tournament, as well as some team goals.

“Our goal is not to just podium, but win. We left last year hungry for more, and know we have a really good shot this year. We’re fit and ready to roll and are excited to see what we can throw down,” said Turek. 

“Our goal is not to just podium, but win. We left last year hungry for more, and know we have a really good shot this year. We’re fit and ready to roll and are excited to see what we can throw down,” said Turek.

Despite not placing first overall, as the team had hoped, their second and 13th place finishes are impressive. Just a week earlier, the men’s team came second and the women’s team placed fifth at the Ontario University Athletics cross country tournament. 

“We went into OUAs hoping for the win, but we just didn’t have it that day. We know what went wrong, and where our weaknesses are, and what needs to be done in the future to capitalize and win a title. We still have a lot of confidence going into [nationals], expecting to be able to improve from our third place last year,” said Turek.

The team seems to have reflected on what went wrong at the OUAs and focused on key areas for improvement going into the U Sports Championships. 

“After OUAs, our main focus was to just work as a team and concentrate on bringing home a U Sports national title. We wanted to make sure we were well rested going into championships, and be able to execute better than we did at OUAs,” Turek added. 

Turek stressed the importance of a U Sports title, which the team came ever so close to, eventually settling for a second place finish. The U Sports championship is the biggest stage for them, as it is the only opportunity to compete at a national level. The team was looking forward to nationals for the entire year, and their eyes had been on the prize. 

The men’s team trained specifically for this event over the past year, with all other competitions acting as lead-up to the U Sports tournament. When coach Schnurr was asked about the team’s training regiment and goals, she offered a similar response to Turek.

“After OUAs, our main focus was to just work as a team and concentrate on bringing home a U Sports national title. We wanted to make sure we were well rested going into championships, and be able to execute better than we did at OUAs,” said Schnurr. 

“After OUAs, our main focus was to just work as a team and concentrate on bringing home a U Sports national title. We wanted to make sure we were well rested going into championships, and be able to execute better than we did at OUAs,” said Schnurr.

As good as second place is, the team isn’t satisfied. This year was significant for cross country, as both the men’s and women’s teams improved from their last year finishes at U Sports. Last year, the men’s team placed third, and the women’s team placed 15th. 

This year, Turek, Alex Drover and Andrew Davies of the men’s team managed to place in the top ten at nationals, placing fifth, sixth and ninth respectively. McMaster was the only university to have three runners in the top 12. Drover and Turek made the All-Canadian first team, and Davies made the All-Canadian second-team, being chosen out of every runner in the country which is an incredible honour. Making an All-Canadian team means that out of all the qualified runners in the country they pick the very best for the first team and then the next best for the second team and so on. 

The Marauders put up a strong fight on their way to finishing second and 13th in the most important cross country tournament of the year. It will be exciting to watch the teams next year as they improve and continue to dominate the track. 

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Key updates from McMaster sports over the past week

So much happened in McMaster sports over reading week, that catching up on school work might not be the only thing you missed over the break. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most important things that happened in sports over the break.

Women’s Rugby

The women’s rugby team had an outstanding run. Combining the results of their final two games of the regular season and the quarterfinals of the OUA championship, they outscored their opponents 196-5. In the quarterfinals they beat the Trent University Excalibur women’s team 71-0 to advance to the semifinals, where they ultimately fell to the Guelph University Gryphons. They then won the bronze medal match scoring 41 points to the Brock University Badgers’ three. This year marks the third year in a row where the McMaster women’s rugby team has secured a bronze medal.

Of note, Alissa Zhang, a member of our women’s rugby team, was awarded the Shiels Division Community Service Award for providing great services to our community. The Shiels division is home to five teams in total, including Queen’s University, University of Guelph, Brock University and The University of Western Ontario. Zhang has volunteered with the McMaster Children’s Hospital and at the Rotman Research Institute. She also founded GirlsZone, a program that aims to get young girls into science.

Cross Country

The cross country team held onto their number two ranking in the nation, a ranking that they have held since the start of the month. This was after their recent win at the Bayfront Open where, not only did the team place first but, Marauders Alex Drover and Sergio Raez-Villanueva took home individual gold and bronze medals respectively. The bayfront open provides a preview as to how the team may perform when they host the Ontario University Athletics championship on Oct. 26.


After a seventh place national ranking, the football team dropped to ninth a week later. This was in part due to the Marauders’ loss to the Carleton University Ravens, accounting for their second loss of the season. Their record currently stands at five wins and two losses. In the final game of the regular season, the Marauders beat the University of Waterloo Warriors 31-14. This pushed their record to six wins and two losses, securing a first-round bye in the OUA playoffs, which gives them an advantage as they get a week of extra rest and guaranteed spot in the semi-finals. Their next game is also the OUA semifinals, which will take place on Nov. 2.

McMaster Hall of Fame

On Oct. 19, McMaster honoured six former student-athletes into our hall of fame. The honorees included Lindsey Sutherland, James Pottinger, Jeremy Sparrow, Nicole Pirko and Dan and Mike Pletch. Sutherland was a key piece of the women’s basketball team that won OUA titles in 2006 and 2008. Pottinger led the defence on McMaster’s back to back Yates cup title wins in 2002 and 2003. Not only did he see great success at the university level, but Pottinger was also selected second overall at the 2006 Canadian National Football league draft. Sparrow won a total of 20 medals at the OUA championships, 10 of which were gold. He also collected 10 medals at the national level, three of which were gold, in the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union, which is now referred to as the U sports championships. Pirko is a key symbol of women’s squash at McMaster. She was the first-ever student in school history to win gold at the OUA championships in 1999. Pirko also took home bronze medals at the OUA championships in 1998 and 2001. Finally, identical twins Dan and Mike Pletch were inducted for their efforts on the men’s rugby team. They contributed to four OUA title-winning seasons. Dan was a finalist for the Ivor Wynne award, McMaster’s male athlete of the year award, in 2005 and 2006. Mike won the award in 2007. Their accomplishments didn’t stop there, with both of them playing for Team Canada in the 2007 rugby world cup.

Photo c/o Zack Jones

The cornerstone of most championship teams is strong depth and players that can be subbed in who will deliver a great performance. This is especially true for the men’s cross country team, led by veteran runner Sergio Raez-Villanueva. With a bevvy of talented players on the roster, the team’s potential is sky high. 

At their first meet of the year in Buffalo, the Marauders sat most of their veteran players to give them rest in preparation for a meet which took place this past weekend on the 21. This allowed many of the younger runners a chance to shine, which they most certainly did. 

“Veterans and rookies alike, we always say at the end of the day once you’re on the start line it’s all up to you. Sometimes the veteran doesn’t have a good day but the rookie steps up and really helps. We’ve seen that happen before, never count the rookies out or anyone for that matter. It really comes down to how people are feeling and we help each other as a team and that’s why we’re a team in cross country,” said Raez-Villanueva, star of the cross country team.

Placing second overall at the meet, standout players like the aforementioned Raez-Villanueva, Sam Nusselder and Taylor Cornwall posted the top three finishes for McMaster at the Buffalo meet. All together their depth helped them place second overall and only one point behind the hosts, the University of Buffalo Bulls.

“Sometimes people aren’t having a good day and sometimes where it matters you can’t do it for some reason or another, maybe you’re a little sick but then there’s someone else who can take that charge and what’s nice about this team is that we have that depth that when someone is not feeling that well there’s someone who can take charge and help us get back to the place that we need to be in,” Raez-Villanueva added.

Their depth has gained recognition at the national level as they are ranked first in the country, after previously being ranked third at the start of the season. Even though this is very high praise, it is not something the team chooses to focus on. 

“You never want to get too confident with rankings and such we don’t want to get into our heads. Within ourselves we always talk, the rank is just there for show sometimes. Sometimes it’ll tell you you’re doing worse some days better but in the end, we’re always training hard, we’re always putting in our best effort it doesn’t matter what they’re saying out there or what people are predicting,” Raez-Villanueva added. 

The marauders look to build off a highly successful season last year where they graced the U sports championship podium for the first time in six years. They also got gold for the first time since 1964 at the Ontario University athletics championships last year. All together the cross country team is looking to repeat and have another historic season this year.

Photo C/O Ian McAlpine

Last weekend, the McMaster track team headed to Manitoba for the U Sports Track and Field National Championship. Although the team did not return with any hardware or medals, Mac’s Alex Drover finished in fifth place for the 3,000m event. With McMaster not particularly known for their indoor track season and the intense competition he was up against, this accomplishment got Drover recognized by the Marauders Athletic department.


The Silhouette: What year and program are you in?

Drover: Second year of integrated biomedical engineering and health sciences.


Tell us what made you decide to come to Mac.

D: A big part of why I came to Mac was because of [that] program. My year is the first year it's been offered. It's a pretty special program because it's not something that's offered in a lot of places, due to the combination of engineering and health sciences. Then, from the running aspect, the team was quite similar to what I had done in high school, so it was an easy transition. Lastly, [head coach Paula Schnurr] is one of the best coaches around so I really wanted to run for her.


Tell us a bit about the National Championships.

D: It was a really fun experience. I didn't get to run indoor track last year because of an illness, so this was my first time at an indoor track championship in university. It was a little bit daunting because all of the best athletes were there, though it went relatively well. Going into it, I didn't have huge expectations for myself because I'm one of the younger athletes. So, I wanted to do as well as possible, but I knew it was going to be a challenging race. I ended up finishing fifth in the race, which was exactly where I was ranked going into it, so I was very happy with that finish.

Forward Linnaea Harper and distance runner Alex Drover are the @PitaPitCanada Athletes of the Week after their performances at @usportsca Championships. #GoMacGo


— McMaster Marauders (@McMasterSports) March 12, 2019


What was your initial reaction when you received the McMaster Pita Pit Athlete of the week honour?

D: It was pretty cool, and I was quite honoured because I know volleyball had their OUA Championships that same weekend. I know they have a lot of talent on their team so there were a lot of guys that could have been nominated that are equally as well deserving of that award.


If you had to tell us one thing about yourself that people don’t know, what would it be?

D: Right before races, I like to watch movies. There is one in particular called Prefontaine, it’s a running movie and I've watched it several times before races.


Lastly, what are your goals for this season?

D: Placing fourth really left me with the urge for a little bit more being that close to the podium. I know I have a lot left in me especially with a few more years after school so my goals are to grow and medal in the future.


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Photo C/O Maxine Gravina

When you are one of seven kids, there are not many activities that are easy for all seven kids to participate. For the Schnurr family, running was the one that worked.

At the age of seven years old, McMaster’s cross-country coach Paula Schnurr found herself in a running club for the first time. Joining the Burlington Running Club, Schnurr soon found out that she was actually quite good at the sport. Fast forward to university, and Schnurr got a spot on McMaster’s cross-country team.

“There's something about running that makes you feel good physically, mentally and emotionally, especially being a part of a team,” said Schnurr. “When I was at McMaster as a varsity athlete, I made lifelong friendships from being part of the team.”

C/O Rick Zazulak

Aside from the forever friends that running gave her, being able to continually challenge herself and the nature of competing is what Schnurr really fell in love with. Her competitive edge led her to make the national team and represent Canada at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics for the 1500m, as well as two World Championships. Schnurr went on to win a silver medal representing Canada at the 1994 Commonwealth Games.

When her time as a runner came to an end, Schnurr turned to coaching. Starting her tenure with McMaster in 2009, her expertise has guided the Marauders to great success. Most recently, the men’s team found success in the 2018 cross-country season, coming in first at the Ontario University Athletics Championship, and third at the U Sports National Championship.

Her team’s triumphs led her to be named the OUA Men's Cross-Country Coach of the Year, making her the first woman to ever win the award, and McMaster’s second recipient of the award ever.

C/O Ian McAlpine

“I was very honoured because it is an award that the coaches vote on,” said Schnurr. “Winning that award is really a reflection of the kind of athletes that are on our team. Because, when your athletes are winning, it makes your coaching look good. So I’m honoured on how lucky we are and that we have a great group of student-athletes.”

The group of men and women she has the honour of coaching are a tight-knit group who often compare themselves to a family rather than a team. For Schnurr and her assistant coach Peter Self, who also happens to be her husband, they can not exactly pinpoint why the student-athletes who join their program all mesh so well together, but they are grateful for a team that enjoys being together on and off the track.

“I guess it's a bit of a reflection on the people that we are. We try to make good decisions on treating people well, and when athletes show up and work well, we're going to reward them by helping them be the best athlete they can be,” said Schnurr. “We feel good that athletes, whether they're winning championships or just making personal times, can walk away after their time here and reflect that they had a great experience while at Mac.”

Although some couples may find it difficult to work together, the two retired professional runners find balance in both their differences and their passion for running.

“I mean, we do disagree on certain things when issues come up, but we have a lot of respect for each other. Pete is very good at making suggestions on how we can change things for the better,” said Schnurr. “He pays attention to more of the details, and I'm more focused on the athletes and managing them. I'm the day-to-day person that they see and interact with, but he's the support.”

Winning such a high honour as Coach of the Year and coming in first provincially and third nationally, the thought of pressure would stay at the back of most people’s minds, but not for Schnurr.

“I don't feel a lot of pressure but I know the men put a lot of the pressure on themselves,” said Schnurr. “ Will there be a bit of pressure next year? Probably, because they are the OUA-defending Champions, but that's okay because the pressure is what makes athletes better.”

Instead of worrying too much about next year, Schnurr and the team’s next focus is the 2019 indoor track season. Unlike the outdoor track season, team goals begin to shift to individual goals. Whether it's running a certain time or making nationals, the men’s team again have top contenders for doing well this season.

“Our women’s team is still young and developing, but it's the men who are looking towards making nationals, as well as our relay teams,” said Schnurr.

Using invitationals like the Don Wright Team Challenge that took place at the Western University this past weekend, and competitions in Michigan and Boston to compete against some of the top American runners, the Marauders are doing whatever it takes to stay sharp. This way, by the end of February for the OUA Championship, and the second week of March for the U Sports National Championships, they will be ready to hit the podium once again.


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Photos by Catherine Goce

After the McMaster men’s cross-country team placed second in the 2017 Ontario University Athletics finals, they knew it was only a matter of time until they knocked the defending OUA champions, the University of Guelph Gryphons, out of the top spot. One year later, they did exactly that. For the first time in 54 years, the men’s team took home the OUA team title.

Leading them in this victory was second-year runner Max Turek. The Whitby, ON native came to McMaster last year to study at Mac’s prestigious engineering school, but also to run for head coach Paula Schnurr.

Turek first began running cross-country in the tenth grade, but after recognizing that he had not only the right physique, but the raw talent for running, he began to take it more seriously. His high school success gave him a number of schools to choose from when it was time to decide where he would continue his post-secondary career. Ultimately, it was Schnurr’s family-driven program that caught Turek’s attention.

“It was a tough decision to choose between a few schools, but honestly it came down to the last details,” said Turek. “I really had a great relationship with Paula, and I really enjoyed her coaching style. She's very conservative and focuses on recovery, which is a huge part of my training.”

After seeing this and the team’s really strong depth chart, he knew in the coming years with their number of young talented guys, that they could win an OUA title while he was at McMaster. He would prove to be right.

[spacer height="20px"]Although, even before this year’s title, Turek began to make a name for himself by taking home the 2017 OUA Rookie of the Year award.

“Even though in the first year I was getting used to the transition from high school to university, I still was able to run up with the top runners in the OUA,” said Turek on his previous year’s overall performance. “I think finally, once I got the hang of it coming into the second year, I knew what my strengths and weaknesses were, and that helped me to come out on top.”

Turek winning individual gold not only brought them the 2018 banner, but it also made Marauder history too. He is now the third McMaster men’s runner to win the individual title, along with 1992 winner Dave Lorne and 1964 winner Dave Knox.

Heading into the 10K course, the nerves were there, but Turek knew he was well-rested and as prepared as he could be. During the race, the poor weather conditions ensured the runners take it nice and easy.

“Going into my first 5K, I was feeling pretty good. Even up until 7K,” said Turek.  “I could have taken the lead, but I knew that there were some strong kickers on the other teams, so I just sat back and let them do the work until the last hundred metres, when I pulled through at the line and was able to win within the last 5 metres.”

Post race interview with 2018 @OUAsport men's cross country champion Max Turek

— Canadian Running (@CanadianRunning) October 27, 2018

Although Turek may have been the first Marauder to cross the line, it was the team effort that secured the title. Sergio Raez Villanueva secured the seventh position, followed by Alex Drover, who was close behind in eighth and Josh McGillivray who came in 11th place.

“We knew we had to stay together and work with each other to win that title,” said Turek. “The depth on our team is just so incredible, especially with how young we are, and this is just the beginning.”

For Turek, winning the individual gold and dethroning a powerhouse program like Guelph has been an overall humbling experience.

“There's obviously a little bit of doubt that crosses your mind,” said Turek. “But we never had the opportunity to race our strongest seven guys against their strongest seven guys, so we knew we had a very good shot.”

Although he is still on a high, it does not end here. With his eyes on the upcoming U Sports national championships in Kingston on Saturday, Nov. 10, he and the Marauders are not willing to settle for anything less than gold.

“Going into this race, it's not just about making the podium anymore,” said Turek “We're here to win. We’re ready to win and we want it really bad.”

Last year, Turek and the men’s team finished just three points behind third-place Université Laval with an overall score of 90 points. The Gryphons took home the national title, so not only will they be looking for revenge against the Marauders, but also want to defend their title. This can be a lot of pressure for the Marauders as they head into their last race of the season, but for Turek, this is just story of the underdog ready to be written.

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The U Sports Cross-Country Championships, held this year in Victoria, British Columbia, marks the end of the outdoor track season for the McMaster cross-country team.

The University of Guelph’s men’s cross-country team reclaimed their title after being beaten by Université Laval the year before. The Guelph women were not as successful, falling for the first time in 13 years to the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. The women’s race was also the first time the championship has been run as an 8km event, as it was traditionally 6km.

Although McMaster’s men’s team was hoping to medal, they finished just three points behind third-place Laval with an overall score of 90 points. The women’s team came in seventh place, improving from their 2016 eighth-place finish.

“I thought the teams raced really well,” said head coach Paula Schnurr. “This years men’s team is the best cross-country team that McMaster has ever had.”

While only two of the competing women had never been to the U Sports championships, five out of the seven members of the men’s team who attended had never competed at the Canadian university championships, including the 2017 Ontario University Athletics rookie of the year Max Turek and newly named U SPORTS Second Team All-Canadian Sergio Raez Villanueva.

“We knew we had a young team at the start so as a coach you’re expecting long term development,” said Schnurr. “But we started to see that this team was better than we anticipated and that really showed at the OUAs.”

With the men consistently ranked between fourth and fifth by U Sports throughout the season, finishing second in the OUA, it started to look like the Marauders had a chance at finishing within the top three. Unfortunately they were ultimately unable to pull through.

“They were disappointed but they all ran as hard as they could,” said Schnurr. “They gave every ounce they had and they delivered as a team. As a coach that’s all I ever ask of them.”

Noting that year-to-year consistency is emblematic of Mac’s program, the women continuing to improve even after losing key runners is something that Schnurr is more than proud of.

Although the team will be losing Jeffery Tweedle, who over the last five years has had a major impact on the McMaster cross-country program, right behind him there are a number of athletes who are ready to fill his running shoes. Raez Villanueva and Turek are just two of the talented athletes the men’s team has to offer.

“We have so much depth on our men’s team and they are constantly improving,” said Schnurr. “That is very exciting for our men’s team’s future.”

For the women's team, Schnurr hopes to create that same level of depth that they have on the men’s side. With a few recruits looking to join Mac’s program, they hope to continue to get stronger and do better over the next few years.

As for the offseason, there essentially is none. Now that the outdoor season is over, the indoor track season begins. With their first race in December, the indoor season spans across January and February. After that, many of the athletes will train with Schnurr in the summer and compete in the six meets Mac plans to host in aims to continually progress and be more successful in the years to come.

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If you have gone through elementary school or high school, chances are you have run cross-country in some way, shape or form, but that does not mean you have the capability to compete at the university level.

That is what Jeff Tweedle, fifth-year civil engineering student and cross-country star, used to think before he took a try at running. Growing up, Tweedle played volleyball throughout high school and loved it, but he also knew that his chances to play at the next level were slim.

It was not until the end of grade 11 that the Cardinal Newman Secondary School student was introduced to local track coach Patti Moore of the Hamilton Olympic Club. He started training with the club more seriously shortly after, and did so throughout the twelfth grade.

“I didn’t have that much of an intention of running when I came to Mac,” said Tweedle. “My track times were okay, but compared to the guys they recruit now I was really slow.”

In his first year, Tweedle struggled with adjusting and balancing to life as a student-athlete and had the worst year of his career. Over the summer after his first year, he had the opportunity to train with head coach Paula Schnurr and from there has seen nothing but constant improvement.

Tweedle believes that they took a chance on him, and that chance has been paying off ever since. The fifth-year runner is the McMaster record holder in the 1,000 metre (2:22:58), 1,500 metre (3:45:80) and mile (4:02.05) distances.

“It was just something that neither of us expected to happen and it was just such a big breakthrough for me,” said Tweedle on his 1,000 metre McMaster record he made two years ago at the Boston University Valentine Invitational.

At the time, Tweedle was suffering from Achilles issues and was not where he wanted to be going into Boston. So winning his heat, finishing third overall and breaking both Mac’s record and his personal best came as a huge surprise.

“I was just in shock,” said Tweedle. “I stepped off the track and looked for my coach Paula and we just hugged it out.”

Over the years, Tweedle has had many good surprises on the track, but he’s had bad ones too — as any athlete does. After having a solid start to the 2017 season, Tweedle was in contention to win at the Ontario University Athletics Cross-Country Championships on Oct. 28. Unfortunately, he ended up falling at the five kilometre mark, which set him back from the lead group.

“I had to do a lot more work to close that gap and collect myself after falling,” said Tweedle. “It hurt me a bit physically, but it was more just the mental shock of hitting the ground, rolling around and trying to pop back up to finish the race.”

Tweedle ended up coming in fifth with a time of 30:46.4, helping the Marauders men’s team place second overall. Sergio Raez Villanueva, Marauder newcomer and sophomore, placed second overall with 30:37.3. First-year Max Turek took home the individual bronze and OUA rookie of the year honours with a time of 30:39.5.

“When I was coming in with 100 metres left and I could see Sergio and Max crossing the line I was just so happy for them,” said Tweedle. “It’s crazy to see these guys early on in their Mac careers doing so well. I may be heading out and it may be the end for me, but to see what these guys are accomplishing is insane.”

The McMaster women’s team also came in at a solid fourth place thanks to Melissa Caruso, who individually placed at 11th with a time of 28:40.7 and Emily Nowak who came in 14th place with 28:57.1.

Both women were named OUA second-team all-stars, while Tweedle, Turek and Raez Villanueva were named OUA first-team all-stars.

As his university career comes to a close at the end of the fall semester, Tweedle hopes that it is not the end of his running career.

“I’m not too sure what I want to do after I graduate,” said Tweedle. “I’m leaving it pretty open so over the next year I can take a crack at running and see how far I can take it.”

Working out a deal with bigger track clubs or a running shoe and apparel sponsor would be the next step for Tweedle to become a professional runner. Although once he hangs up his cleats, Tweedle hopes to work in municipal engineering.

But for now, he still has one more race to try to win as a Marauder. His sights are set on the U Sports championships, where both the men’s and women’s teams will be competing.

“[The OUA Championships] wasn’t quite what I hoped for as I was hoping to get a medal and it didn’t quite go that way,” Tweedle said. “But it’s nice to have the U Sports in two weeks. We were ready for the OUA’s, but we’re gonna be even better in two weeks.”

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