Name: Max Link
School: Arvada West
What was your most memorable race/throw/jump/vault/moment?
I would say my most memorable race was when I took a wrong turn at the Centaurus Invite my sophomore year. I was on pace to letter for the first time and was only 400 meters away from the finish line when I took a 180 degree turn far too early. I had run the course before but I guess it just slipped from my mind!
I remember being very confused as to why there were so many people on the course, I was even yelling at them to get out of my way. Eventually I was stopped by a teammate (s/o to Maya Fairchild) and I made the trek back. I ended up adding about 3 minutes to my time and more than sixty people passed me. You win some you lose some I guess :/
Who would you consider your biggest competition over your four years?
My biggest competitor was probably one of my best friends, Emily Burg. As freshman, we traded being the fastest of our grade, as she was prodigious and I was just starting. After Pat Amato of my freshman year she never eclipsed one of my times, but it became about who placed higher in their respective races (or even who was able to PR at all!).
What was your greatest accomplishment?
Hands-down the Gator Invite my senior year. Not because of my time or place or team victory, but because of that last half-mile.There's a monstrous water feature with 800 to go. I never had problems in the previous three years with it ("glorified puddle") but senior season is something else ("Olympic swimming pool") and it stole my shoe!
I made a split-second choice to leave it behind and I finished that last half-mile on a sock and 4%. It was honestly a formative experience and in my opinion really exemplified cross country grit.
Thank you to the Standley Lake volunteers for returning it a couple of days later, and Nike for using some material that prevents them from getting dirty (NXR is an exception to that though).
If you could do it all over again what would you change about your career in high school?
I would have put more into my races. Of course during the race it often feels like you're giving it your all, but I have always had regrets about the times I ran. Also sprinting just a bit more at NXR this year.
What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?
My most difficult obstacle was finding a race pace that truly reflected my fitness, I constantly found myself unsatisfied with my races because I hadn't done as well as I knew I could.
What will you miss the most?
I will (and currently do) miss my teammates and the Arvada West community. There is a profound rhythm that rises from the constancy of practice and teammates, and that rhythm has been broken. I could always count on practice after school, always had that as a constant in the summer mornings. I will miss the Ralston Creek trail, Room 123, Blondie the dog, and above all the people I spent hundreds of miles with. Plus whenever I forget to bring running shoes, my teammates Logan Deison and Dominic Danborn are kind enough to lend me an extra pair of theirs. Where else can you find that kind of support?
What advice would you give to younger athletes?
Believe it or not, slow down. Especially to the freshman and sophomores on varsity, don't get ahead of yourself. Enjoy your moments as they come and don't be overly obsessed with what is to come, focus on what is now. Remember that no matter how much time you have left on the prep running circuit, it is always ticking down.
So, take a breath and show appreciation for where you are at the moment. Also, don't fall into the illusion of trying to control everything. Control what you can control. Don't count hours of sleep and minutes between meals. As long as it's not too crazy, go out the night before races. Virtually no one is pursuing state titles or records. Take running as a component of the high school experience -- definitely a significant one, but don't make overt sacrifices for it, even if that seems like the right thing to do at the time.
What influence has your coach had with respect to your performance and overall life goals?
My coach taught me that when you are pursuing a goal, it doesn't come down to whether or not you can, just that you have to. Wherever you think you are in terms of strength or fitness, you can always dig deeper, do more than you thought possible, as long as you want it.
The limit lies beyond your reasonable assumptions about your abilities. Further, my coach taught me to account for, not avoid, pain. Sacrifices and pain are a natural part of development, and if you avoid them, you risk mitigating progress.
What are your college plans?
Next fall I'm going to Cornell University (*insert Andy Bernard quote here*) to study Government. I might pick up minors in Global Health and International Trade & Development as well. I will not pursue NCAA competition.
Who would you like to say 'thank you' to?
First and foremost, my coaches and parents. The former made my running experience possible at all, and the latter supported me through it for four straight years.
Past that, of course the runners that came before me. In particular, Andres Perez, Jake Valdez, Colin Berndt, and Drew Craig inspired me to always work toward my running goals.
There was one time when we ran around a nearby neighborhood and stopped at friends' houses to get food. We ended up with Fruit Roll Ups, cereal, a basketball, and Gatorade. So thanks for that memory.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I don't care if you're number one on varsity and drop the field in a given race -- support everyone on the team. It may only cost you breath to cheer for a freshman on your team, but for them it could mean massive encouragement.
For the vast majority of high schoolers, you are first and foremost a team member that has a mandate to support your teammates. So scream for the slowest kids on your team, show them you care, distribute water at finish lines, help people up, and contribute to the atmosphere. The small sacrifice in time, energy, breath, or whatever that it may cost you to cheer on a teammate or really any runner can make the difference in their race. Just ask Carley Bennett.
ALSO: study course maps & tie your shoes tight.