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.
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.”
— CanadianRunning (@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.