Jude Wheeler-Dee has been unstoppable this winter. From breaking a 35-year-old record in January to winning two gold medals at the OUA Championships in February, it seemed evitable he would pull off another big win in March.
Last Friday night at the U SPORTS Track & Field Championships in Saskatoon, SK, Wheeler-Dee captured the gold medal for the Gaels in the Men’s 1,000 meter. It was his second gold medal in the event after winning the OUA Track and Field Championships 1,000-meter race two weeks ago.
Wheeler-Dee also competed in the 1,500-meter on Saturday and placed seventh with a time of 3:54.68. Additionally, Olivia Hendrikx, Madelyn Bullock, Gillian Porter, and Lizzy Vroom placed ninth in the 4X800 relay. The four women were the first Queen’s relay team to qualify for a U SPORTS National Championships since 2013.
For the second time this season, Wheeler-Dee has been named Varsity Student Athlete of the Week. Most recently, he received the OUA Track and Field MVP Award for the 2023 season.
Wheeler-Dee is not only one of Queen’s most decorated athletes, but a national track and field sensation after his U SPORTS victory. Despite the sheer amount of recognition and praise he’s received during the past several months, Wheeler-Dee remains as humble as ever.
“I’m here because I love to run, not because I love to win,” Wheeler-Dee said in an interview with The Journal.
Before running track this winter, Jude competed on the cross country team, which is known at Queen’s for its tight-knit dynamic. In the fall, both the men’s and women’s teams train together, creating a unified, fun-loving, and competitive atmosphere.
In November, the men’s team earned bronze at the U SPORTS Championship for their first national podium in over twenty years.
“Obviously, track is a bit more individualistic and when you’re out there, you are running for yourself less then when you’re running cross country where you’re running more as a team,” Wheeler Dee said.
Jude ran alongside Roman Minrov and Myles Brackenbury this fall, and after an accomplished cross-country season together, they extended their chemistry to distance track. Minrov, Brackenbury, and Wheeler-Dee ran alongside each other in the 1,500-meter event at the OUA Championships in February.
“There’re no other guys I’d rather see succeed more than my teammates, but there’s also no other guys that I’d rather beat more than my teammates, whether it’s in a workout or race,” Wheeler-Dee said, commenting on his competitive friendship with Minrov and Brackenbury.
However, at the U SPORTS National Championships, Jude found himself without his beloved teammates as he ran alone for the first time in a while.
“It’s definitely a lot scarier to be out there alone because you don’t have your teammates to help you and to motivate you,” Wheeler-Dee said.
He explained how running with his teammates gives him a sense of greater purpose and perspective, something he had to cultivate on his own at the U SPORTS Championship.
“Obviously when I’m running with Miles and Roman there is kind of that aspect that we’re all there together, and we’re doing it together. In that, I’m not just running for myself, I’m also running for them.”
Traditionally, the team has some rituals they perform together before their big events, including a 10-minute mile on the morning of race day. For these competitive runners, it’s an easy jog, and an attempt to shake the nerves and chat with teammates.
When Wheeler-Dee attended U SPORTS on his own, he had to tap into his own pre-race rituals to get in the zone. These included pizza and beer the night before the big day while trying his best to stay relaxed and centered before the competition.
“Obviously, I know once I get into that environment I’ll be focused and the jitters will come and the butterflies will be there, but I like to try to keep that as close to the race as possible,” he said.
At the U SPORTS Championships, Wheeler-Dee said relied on Head Coach Mark Bomba for support and guidance.
“Our relationship has definitely gotten to the point where I almost take his word as a truth and his beliefs are, in a way, my beliefs when it comes to performances.”
“I do actually really take that to heart and try to believe that myself because if there’s someone who’s seen me run a fair bit and knows what I’m capable of, it would definitely be Mark.”
For now, Wheeler-Dee continues to train for upcoming events this spring as everyone nervously anticipates his next great accomplishment.
gold medal, Jude Wheeler-Dee, OUA, Track and field, U Sports
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