By: Eamon Hillis
In distance running, perhaps more than any other sport, victory is not achieved by chance.
The sport has demonstrated time again that talent is a trifle, and that those who are able to remain steadfast in their training will inevitably rise to the top. On this year’s McMaster track roster, two athletes exemplify this idea: Jeff Tweedle and Kaitlyn Pansegrau.
Tweedle and Pansegrau are fifth-year seniors who specialize in middle-distance events (800m-1500m). In the first two meets of 2017 – Don Wright in London, ON, and John Thomas Terrier Classic in Boston – both athletes performed exceptionally well, and positioned themselves to make this their best season of racing ever. Both noted that they feel fit considering how early it is in the season.
“I’m feeling good and training is going in the right direction,” Pansegrau said. “I hope it bodes well for things to come.”
Although Tweedle and Pansegrau’s recent successes may not appear particularly unique to the unknowing spectator, nothing about either athlete’s journey was preordained. Both grew up in the Hamilton area, Tweedle from Stoney Creek and Pansegrau from Dundas, and did not exhibit extraordinary talent as high school runners. Neither was recruited heavily by McMaster, and each made their decision to attend Mac for reasons unrelated to running.
“I wasn’t a great high school runner,” Tweedle said. “I was a middle of the pack guy, and I was never able to qualify for the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Association finals. I came to Mac purely for the academics and the great community around campus. Athletics at university was never a guarantee for me. I never knew it would turn into anything.”
Tweedle has come a long way since those days. He currently holds the school record in the 1000m, earned a 2016 Ontario University Athletics bronze medal and has distinguished himself as one of the premier middle-distance runners in the country. His inspiring story is a testament to one of the unique truths of the sport; that for those who are diligent in their pursuit, consistent in their work ethic, and are able to apply themselves long-term, they will find themselves compensated justly for their labours.
Pansegrau understands the importance of this consistency also boasts a remarkably steady trend in improvement from year to year. Part of this consistency can be attributed to her careful attitude towards injury prevention, and her willingness to get treatment quickly when injuries do arise.
“Aside from minor tweaks, I thankfully haven’t had any major injuries that have put me back too much,” Pansegrau said. “Doing strength and rehab work, while staying on top of the little things right when they come up is something that I continue working at. I try to deal with them right away rather than letting them develop into something bigger.”
Both athletes also stressed another important element in their development – the addition of mileage over the years. For the elite runner, an increase in weekly mileage can quickly lead to an increase in fitness if executed properly. Tweedle logs upwards of 140 kilometres each week.
“I came to Mac purely for the academics and the great community around campus. Athletics at university was never a guarantee for me. I never knew it would turn into anything.”
Fifth-year student, McMaster track and field
“In my first three years I ran relatively low mileage,” Tweedle said. “But more recently, [head coach] Paula Schnurr and a few of my teammates helped me realize that I needed to be doing higher mileage. It has definitely been a huge turning point and has helped me realize that my body can handle it, if done properly.”
Unsurprisingly, Tweedle and Pansegrau were quick to mention the unconditional support of Schnurr and assistant coach Peter Self.
“I definitely have Pete and Paula to thank for my development here at Mac,” Pansegrau said. “Paula really likes to work with her athletes on an individual basis, and I am grateful for that.”
Pansegrau and Tweedle both competed in the 1000m at the John Thomas Terrier Classic in Boston on Jan. 27-28. Pansegrau ran a remarkable 2:52.85 for an eight second personal best, while Tweedle ran 2:22.81 to achieve early qualification into the U Sports championship March 9-11 in Edmonton, Alberta.
Both will be looking to finish their varsity track careers on a high, and are poised to make waves in the coming weeks.