Elmira District Secondary School student Nathaniel Mechler will soon be calling himself a Cougar, rather than a Lancer.
The local decathlete has just signed a scholarship contract with the University of Houston to start in its track and field program in 2016, where he will be working to make it to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Mechler says he has spent the last couple of months, running, jumping, throwing … and looking for a post-secondary institution that would support his demanding athletic schedule and goals in academics. When he visited the University of Houston campus, he found it.
“When I went to Houston, I fell in love with the school. It was amazing,” he said. “Track and field is incredible there, and the kinesiology program, which is what I want to go into, is funded by NASA. I really loved it, and the weather is great too.”
When he arrives in Houston next summer, Mechler says he is going to start training right away, all with the goal of reaching the podium at the 2020 Olympics. The coaches in the Texas university’s track and field program are the best of the best.
“The head coach of the program is Leroy Burrell, who is the past world record holder in the 100(m), and he was the world record holder for the 4×100(m) as well,” he said. “There is Carl Lewis, who was a world record holder in the 100(m) as well, and multi-time world champion – his coach works there as well. It is a great program. It is pretty cool. It will be big time for my development. From here [it is about] setting me up for the 2020 Olympics. That is my ultimate goal, to get to that place.”
The decathlete hosted a signing party in Guelph earlier this month to celebrate inking the deal, with family, friends, teammates, and coaches from First Attempt Jumps Academy.
However, before he even thinks about the new life of training and academics in Houston, Mechler is focusing on the International Association of Athletics Federations World Junior Championships, set for July 2016 in the Russian city of Kazan.
“I would like to medal at the world junior championships. I am training six days a week, and then for five of those six days, I am training twice a day, so it is a lot,” he said, mentioning that his favourite part of a decathlon is looking back on his accomplishments. “Oh man, I have a few favourite events, but I am pretty happy when it is all over. It is a great feeling after two days and ten events – it is a really great feeling to see it complete.”
Although he hasn’t put on Cougar colours just yet, Mechler wants to thank those in Elmira who helped him get to where he is today, including supportive community members and coaching staff.
“I am from Elmira, so I got as much support they could give me there, and it is really cool to be able to represent Elmira on the bigger stage,” he said. “They didn’t have all the coaching knowledge, but they gave me absolutely everything they could to help me achieve everything I could.”
Mechler has already seen success in his track and field career, winning a bronze medal at the PanAmerican Junior Games this past summer, and winning gold at the Canadian Combined Championships just a few weeks before.