Track star signs on with SFU

Chilliwack native and GW Graham student Jesse MacDuff will run with the Simon Fraser University Clansmen starting this fall.

A star in the local track and field scene

Chilliwack native Jesse MacDuff will join one of Canada’s top university track and field programs this fall.

The GW Graham senior has secured a spot at Simon Fraser University, an excellent place to continue honing his long-distance running skills.

“I really wanted to go to SFU, because it has cross-country and track,” MacDuff said. “The campus looks awesome. It’s big and open with lots of space, but everything I want is right there.”

MacDuff specializes in the mid-distance races — 800 and 1500 metre — with the 3000m mixed in. He started drawing notice in Grade 8, winning Fraser Valleys and making provincials every year.

Brit Townsend is the head coach at SFU.

The former Olympian  in the 800m has held that post the last 13 years and doesn’t welcome just anyone into her program.

The first time MacDuff sat across the table from the seven time national coach of the year, one word popped into his head.

“She was intense,” he said. “She seems like she’ll get in your face and make you work really hard. She’s a nice person, but when I watched her coach there was a lot of, ‘work harder.’

MacDuff has excelled all the way up the local track and field ladder and thus hasn’t required coaches to ‘get in his face.’

“I’ll just try to take it as a learning experience and make myself better,” MacDuff said when asked how he’ll react to the Townsend approach. “I can take a lot. Most of the time I react pretty well to people yelling at me, as long as they don’t do it in a way I don’t like.”

MacDuff doesn’t believe Townsend will ever find issue with his work ethic.

By his own admission he’s not the most athletically talented runner, but he maximizes what he’s got with a never-say-die attitude.

“My head doesn’t let me stop,” he elaborated. “My legs say stop, but my head keeps telling me, ‘You can do more.’ I have no clue where that comes from, but I never want to quit something. I just want to keep going.”

Not easy to do when you’re 2,000 metres into a 3,000 metre race, but somehow he always manages to get it done.

“The 1,500 metre mark is really where you get the ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’ feeling,” he said. “When you hit 2,000 metres, you start telling yourself you’re almost there and put the gas on.”

According to the SFU athletics website, the school has 32 males involved in hurdles, sprint or long-distance running.

There’s another 24 on the women’s side.

“We don’t have a lot of people doing track at GW Graham, so it’s been more of an individual thing,” MacDuff said, contrasting the SFU crowd with his current semi-solitary existence. “They’ve got a big team. All the runners are doing stuff together and it looks really cool. You have someone to go against, training with people who can help push you to new limits.”

People who choose track and field often do so because they enjoy the individual challenge — they don’t have to rely on teammates for success, only themselves.

MacDuff isn’t like that.

“I’ve been that way all my life, and that’s why I liked playing basketball at GW Graham,” said the multi-sport standout. “It’s nice having those people around you.”

He’ll have a couple of familiar faces at SFU.

GW Graham grad Lorenzo Smith is completing his sophomore season as a competitor in the 800 and 1500m events.

Sardis secondary school grad David Sawatzky is finishing up his freshman season. He too runs the 800 and 1500m.

MacDuff will study criminology with an eye towards police work. He finds the premise of ‘bringing people to justice’ appealing.

He’ll be living on campus, and he looks forward to the freedom he’ll have.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” he said.

Get more SFU info online at

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