Elmira student and track star Nathaniel Mechler is taking names and breaking records this year. Fresh off his second-place finish at the New Balance Indoor Nationals pentathlon on March 14 in New York, he’s prepping for the local track season.
But he’s keeping his eye on the ultimate prize: the 2020 Summer Olympics.
“I get asked almost every day when I’m going to the Olympics,” Mechler said with a laugh.
And that’s a very real possibility for the 17-year-old, who’s currently ranked number one in all of Canada and will compete in the Canadian junior track and field championship in Edmonton this July. That competition also acts as trials for the Pan American junior championships, also being held in Edmonton, in late July.
The decathlete (an athlete competing in 10 track and field events at one meet) earned personal-bests performances at the New York competition for long jump (6.49 metres), the 60-metre hurdles (8.66 seconds), 1,000-metre run (2:39) and shot put (12.83 metres).
“That was very cool,” Mechler said. “It was nationals for the states, so 11 athletes got in for the pentathlon I was in, in North America. It’s cool to see how I fared against the top athletes.”
His love for track started at a relatively young age, born out of the annual track and field day his public school held.
“I always excelled in it and I loved winning,” Mechler said. “So after I was done with hockey I decided just to try it out, and I’ve loved it ever since.”
He ended his potential hockey career at a young age due to a concussion. When he first started his favourite events were the 800-metre run, high jump and triple jump. Then he switched to the 1,500-metre run, 800-metre run and high jump in high school. And because doing three events wasn’t enough track and field for him, he started doing multi-events.
This marks his first year doing decathlons. Despite qualifying for the Arcadia Decathlon in 2014, he had to pull out due to injuries.
High school track is next on the agenda for him and he’s planning to do the pole vault, hurdles and the 400-metre run – but nothing’s set in stone.
“In the multi-events you get points depending on how well you do on each,” Mechler said. “You can get a lot of points on those events. So I’m doing those to concentrate to help for my decathlon in the summer.”
One of his goals is to win a medal next year at the World Juniors. They’ll be Canadian trials and if he’s in the top two and gets the standard number of points he’ll qualify to compete.
When the weather allows he practices on his grandfather’s 250-acre farm in Goldstone, with plenty of room to run, a high jump pit, a long jump pit, and homemade hurdles.
“Outdoor will be starting up in the next two weeks, which will be a nice change from the indoor track,” Mechler added.
He’ll be returning to EDSS for a fifth year in the fall to boost his academic credits and hopefully give him some time to get a scholarship at a school in the U.S. He’s been in touch with some coaches and gained interest from schools during the meet in New York. He’d like to study teaching or something in kinesiology or physical therapy.
His location of choice would be sunny California.
“I hate winter. I’m not a Canadian,” he joked.
Aside from training six days a week, he also will help coach the EDSS track and field team this season. As a busy student athlete, Mechler says there isn’t one key to his success.
“I think it’s just the love for it,” Mechler said. “If you love something enough it’s pretty easy to say focused, as long as you’re balancing it.”