Despite an injury-plagued end to the track season, Jeff Tweedle is more than happy with its outcome. The third-year Civil Engineering student was the lone Marauder to race in the CIS championships in Windsor earlier this month, and prior to that he became the McMaster record-holder in the men’s 1000m in emphatic fashion.
The Hamilton native achieved the result at the Boston University Valentine Invitational, where he laid waste to a field of NCAA Division I athletes with a personal-best time of 2:23.66, handily winning a heat whose atmosphere he likened to that of a time-trial.
“I’d been shooting for the record since last year, so to get it was nice and an affirmation that I was moving in the right direction and that training had been going well,” said Tweedle.
Tweedle said the win and school record gave him some needed buoyancy heading into the OUA championships and onwards to CIS championships after that. While falling five tenths of a second short of an automatic CIS berth in Boston, his converted time of 2:25.64 ended up being good for seventh place in the national rankings and meant he would compete in the national championship regardless of his performance at the OUA final.
While the Boston race gave him a brief high, Tweedle confessed to feeling the pressure ahead of the CIS championship knowing that the field would be full of athletes he hadn’t competed against before.
“My training hadn’t been going well after Boston due to some injury problems and then my confidence took a blow after racing at the OUA championships as I didn’t have a good run there. It kind of got in my head a bit,” he said.
Tweedle acknowledged that his training schedule this year had him peak earlier than he would have liked. His tone lacked any regret as he said that he knew running a fast time in Boston was what he needed to do to put himself in a position to quality for nationals.
“It was a gamble I had to make. I had to peak early and try to hold on to that momentum and fitness for the rest of the season and try to do what I could at CIS.”
On the day of the race itself, Tweedle said his attitude became more positive. Complacency was not running through the third-year’s mind, and Tweedle was simply looking forward to the prospect of racing with the nation’s best.
Speaking to the strategy that he and coach Paula Schnurr had devised, Tweedle said that it differed from the one he had employed in Boston where he had led for a good portion of the race. Instead, this strategy focused on staying with the pack and feeling out the final two laps based on the pace.
What hindered Tweedle aside from being burnt out was an Achilles injury that he got through only by having his left leg heavily taped. While it has affected both his legs at various points in the season, it was a testament to the team’s medical staff that he was even out there.
“I’ve been seeking a lot of treatment for it from the trainers, who really kept me alive throughout the season.”
The CIS race was a slow, tactical one where the pace was not pushed despite most of the runners boasting a sub-50 second capacity over 400m. The pack clung together and Tweedle comfortably kept pace with them. When it came time to make a move, Tweedle said he suffered from the nerviness that came with being boxed in for much of the race. He had to jostle to maneuver to the outside lanes where he attempted to pass some runners, but did not have the same blazing kick that saw him coast to a win in Boston. Laval’s Charles Philibert-Thibou was the eventual winner with a time of 2:25.19, while Tweedle finished in 2:30.50.
Tweedle was not regretful of the respect he gave the pack even if running his qualifying time would have meant a spot on the podium in third place, saying that it was a different race that called for a different strategy.
This summer, Tweedle plans to pick up where he left off with Hamilton’s Harbour Track, where Paula Schnurr also handles coaching duties. The continuity is something that Tweedle relishes and cites as one of his main advantages along with the knowledge that he can run such a quick time as he did in Boston.
“Training with Paula has been awesome as it makes my season seamless,” Tweedle said. “We’ve learned from this season and the training will change next year. We’ll try to focus on just peaking for the OUA and CIS championships for next year.”
Tweedle hopes to recover from his injury soon and be well on his way to training for the summer track season.