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A U Sports championship 59 years in the making

I know it's hard to believe, but the McMaster men's XC team had a drought longer than the Toronto Maple Leafs. We chat with head coach Paula Schnurr about what it took and what this title means for the program

Photo by: Maggie Veitch, McMaster Athletics

When you think of historic sporting droughts, the McMaster University men’s cross-country team isn’t the first Ontario sports team to come to mind. But on Nov. 12, the McMaster men shattered a wild 59-year title drought to win the 2022 Canadian U Sports XC Championships in Halifax. 

Max Turek celebrates winning the 2022 U Sports XC Championship. Photo: Maggie Veitch, McMaster Athletics

The McMaster men were the number-one-ranked team in the country all season, but their previous second- and third-place finishes over the past three seasons at U Sports showed that history repeated itself. 

This year was different for the Marauders, as they brought back Dylan Alick for his final year of eligibility (he competed for the team between 2016 and 2019). The team also had a well-known “three-headed monster” at the front, with 2021 OUA champion Andrew Davies, Alex Drover and Max Turek, who won all four races he entered in 2022. This year, the three men all placed in the top five individually.

“For most of these guys, this was their last shot,” says McMaster head coach Paula Schnurr. “It was a special moment for these men and the program as a whole.”

Max Turek, Andrew Davies and Sam Nusselder at the front of the pack. Photo: Maggie Veitch, McMaster Athletics

“The group of Turek, Drover, Alick and Sam Nusselder all came in together,” says Schnurr. “They have tasted a bit of success during their time here, but bringing a championship to McMaster has always been their goal.”

Although Turek took the individual win, Schnurr held back her celebrations until she saw all five men cross the finish line. “I had a good feeling we won the team title, but I refused to believe it until I saw the official results,” she says.

Schnurr, a two-time Canadian Olympian in the 1,500m, has been with the McMaster track/XC program for more than 25 years, although she only stepped into the head coaching role in 2010. In the last 13 years, Schnurr has helped transform McMaster into a hotspot for some of Canada’s top up-and-coming distance runners. 

The McMaster men before the start of the 2022 U Sports XC Championships. Photo: Maggie Veitch, McMaster Athletics

“Hard work or building success doesn’t happen overnight,” says Schnurr. “None of the men on our team medalled at OFSAA XC in high school. Our program believes in commitment and development.”

Schnurr believes deeply in finding out what works for her athletes in their first and second years and building on that for years three and four. “Not all athletes are the same,” she says. “Each year, I’m trying to do things differently.”

Although only seven members of the McMaster team were allowed to compete at U Sports, Schnurr emphasized that many others have helped McMaster get to this stage. 

“This win is for the 13 years of teams that came before them,” Schnurr says. “They’ve all helped build this program to where it is today. Now, these seven men will share this special bond for the rest of their lives, and leave behind a historic legacy.”

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