Every year, McMaster University manages to attract several talented student athletes that show their drive and passion in the sport that matters most to them.
Among this diverse group of student-athletes, however, lies a different breed — Triathletes.
These high-performance athletes train for and perfect not just one sport, but three. Swimming, cycling and running.
For Marauder alumni and elite triathlete Taylor Reid, training for multiple sports all at once is part of what makes it so thrilling.
“You’re actually training for 4-5 hours each day, and hitting different sports, so it just changes everything up and it’s a challenge, because not everyone can do all of it,” said Reid.
Reid, a member of the C3 triathlon group, came to McMaster five years ago, after following the footsteps of his triathlon teammate Andrew Yorke, who essentially started the influx of several other triathletes at McMaster University, through the recommendation of their coach, Barrie Shepley.
“My coach at the time Barrie Shepley had attended McMaster, my training partner Sean Bechtel, one of the best Canadian triathletes was attending Mac as well. It was a great fit,” said Yorke.
Along with the people convincing Yorke to become a Marauder, he was also attracted to the closeness of Hamilton to his hometown of Caledon.
And for triathletes wanting to train hard, there were not a lot of other options.
“In 2007 when I came to McMaster the only other option to continue my triathlon career was to move across the country to the National Training Centre in Victoria, BC, and I wasn’t quite ready physically or mentally to make a sacrifice like that,” said Yorke.
The year before Yorke made his final decision, he was well on his way to seriously pursuing triathlons, as he competed at the World Junior Triathlon and was named the Junior Triathlete of the year in Canada.
Another aspect that made the decision to go to McMaster easier for both Yorke and Reid was the fact that the swim coach, Andrew Cole, allowed the group, also consisting of Andrew Bysice and John Rasmussen, to train with McMaster’s highly competitive swim team.
“No other university would have let me swim with them, except for this one, because Andrew Cole basically opened it up to us,” said Reid.
The swimming teams at other universities expect their athletes to not only train with them, but to compete with them as well.
The coaches at McMaster — Andrew Cole, Paula Schnurr and Rory Sneyd, however, understand the commitments of triathlon training and preparation, and have taken that into account when it comes to their workouts and their participation in meets.
“Mac was one of the few schools with a swim and run varsity program that would allow me to pursue both programs. I spent my years at Mac swimming with Coach Andrew Cole and the Varsity swim team, and running with the Varsity Cross country team under Rory Sneyd,” said Yorke.
“Had I chosen a different university I likely wouldn’t have received the same level of attention and might not have progressed to the level I have.”
While the triathlete group of Andrew Yorke, Taylor Reid, Andrew Bysice and John Rasmussen trained for hours together- logging miles in running, cycling on the roads, or swimming at Ivor Wynne, other triathletes became interested in the scene as well.
Austen and Taylor Forbes- twins from Dundas, Ontario — came to McMaster just a couple of years later. They had an easy decision when it came to choosing a university that would support their training.
“Since I live in Hamilton, Mac has been my home base since I started out,” said Taylor.
The Forbes twins started competing and training for triathlons at the age of 11, and have used the same facilities that Mac offers ever since.
The brothers also took into account the fact that there were a long line of triathletes that came to Mac before them, so they knew the coaches were ready for the needs and sacrifices they would have to make for the sake of their triathlon-training.
“The coaches here are fantastic when it comes to communicating with our Triathlon coaches and working our running around the rest of our training,” added Taylor.
As for Austen Forbes, his decision to come to Mac was based on the full package of what it offered.
“Mac was my choice because it gave me everything I needed: A great academic institution, great training facilities to allow me to continue my sport, great coaches to help me improve in my sport, and it was an option close to home where I can spend more time with my family who are my biggest supporters.”
Austen also credits his twin brother for motivating him to come to McMaster, so that they could continue to be training partners for the rest of their triathlon career.
“We both love the sport equally as we thrive off of it and each other. I truly believe that I would not be half the athlete I am today without my brother there to try and kick my ass and tell me to “keep going, only a little longer,” said Austen.
But the twins also acknowledge their desire to become a part of the “triathlon family” at McMaster that they believed would benefit them in their training and in their progression in the sport.
“Yorke, Reid, Rasmussen, and Bysice went to school here. I wanted to be a part of that family here at Mac and they were so welcoming. And despite being on separate triathlons teams, wearing Maroon and Grey made us one big team,” said Taylor.
Although a good portion of the triathlon family at McMaster has graduated, the men’s cross country team proved this year that the legacy still lives on.
Out of the scorers for the team at the OUA Cross country Championships, 5 of the top 7 were triathletes.
Head track coach Paula Schnurr credits triathletes’ success in cross country running to all of the time spent off their feet- with swimming and cycling in the mix of their season.
“The cross training is certainly beneficial, it prevents them from some over-use training they might get, and it keeps them always running fresh, just allowing the various types of training without focusing on specific running training,” said Schnurr.
The understanding coaches, the facilities, and the support offered at McMaster University has assisted the triathlon family in their future goals and endeavors.
The most impressive member of the family is Andrew Yorke, who is now looking to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, after being named an alternate to the 2012 Olympic Triathlon team.
Through all of the miles logged both in running and cycling, and all of the laps in the pool, Yorke credits McMaster University, and his triathlon family in getting him to where he is right now, and providing him with fond memories he will never forget.
“I was at Mac for a long time and got to see a lot of quality athletes come through the swim and run programs. Getting to share the daily experience of training and racing with them was the greatest experience I’ve ever had.”
As for the rest of the triathlon family, they will continue to compete and train hard for the rest of the summer before they tackle another trying cross country season in the fall.