Maxwell Hardin: Male Athlete of the Week Inbox

Maxwell Hardin and Auburn High School traveled out of state to Fayetteville, Georgia where he took down a talented field winning in 15:22 at the AT&T Starrs Mill Panther XC Invitational.

Take us through the race, particularly explaining what happened and your goals entering the race.

Going into this race, my main goal was to run faster than I did last year along with winning. Last year, I really let myself get too comfortable on the second mile, so I wanted to focus on pushing myself that part of the race. During the race, I got out exactly how I wanted to in about 4:46 then my second mile was 5:04. I had no idea what I came through in at the time, but I felt good. I dropped the rest of the field with a little less than a mile to go with a surge and tried to finish strong. Finishing, I felt great. It was a very conservative race for me going into it not knowing what my fitness level was after everything I've gone through the past year.

Can you elaborate more on everything you've gone through the past year?

I had my last cross country season cut short due to injury. [I had] three stress fractures in my left foot. It was a persistent problem from October all the way through April. I was lucky enough to race Outdoor State after getting out of my boot just 10 days before but going into summer training I knew I would have to approach it differently than I have the past three years. No more high mileage, just quality work, and cross training. I got to peak around 50 miles one week in June and haven't gotten to 40 since the beginning of July.

What's the process like of overcoming the mental side of recovering from your injuries?

The hardest part was telling myself that the different type of work I was putting in was going to pay off, even if it felt unconventional.

What's your go-to form of cross training?

I'm on my high school's team that I go to practice with everyday after cross country practice.

Where will we see you racing the rest of the season?

I'll be at Oak Mountain, Wingfoot, Jesse Owens, Auburn's home meet Tiger Classic, Sectionals, and State.

Obviously, times are relative in cross country, but how fast do you think you can go this season?

Time is in the back of my mind this year. I just want to get out there and place well. However, I'm hoping to run low to sub 15:00 this year by the end of the season.

What are your post high school running plans?

I'm committed to Auburn University. There's a dynasty in the making right now that I can't wait to be a part of.

Care to elaborate more on what makes Auburn attractive and why you wanted to commit to them?

Auburn has everything I could ask for and more. From football gameday to a chill Wednesday, the campus just feels like home. Along with that, I feel like I click well with the team that I didn't [feel] anywhere else. It definitely helped that I had past high school teammates there already as well.

What do you want to leave behind from your time at Auburn High School?

A good culture of hard work that will last past me. That's what the seniors before me left and what I hope to continue!

What is a person or quote or something that motivates you?

I think my coach is probably the one who motivates me the most. He knows my potential and always does his best to make sure I get to it. Coach Benitez is one of the good ones!

What got you into running?

I started the summer of seventh grade to get better at swimming and it took off from there.

Describe your favorite running memory.

My favorite running memory was actually at Starrs Mill my freshman year. I ran in the junior varsity race and won my first 5K ever. It foreshadowed four fun years to come.

Do you have any brothers or sisters?

I have two older sisters in college!

What's your favorite spike to race in?

Nike Dragonfly.

Who is your favorite pro runner?

Probably Joshua Cheptegei or Grant Fisher.

What's your go-to celebratory meal?

Wendy's Daves Double with a large Frosty!

What's the hardest workout you've ever done?

Probably my sophomore year doing 6x1K at 2:50 with 3 minutes rest.

Who is another high school runner who does or did force you to bring your best when competing against him?

My former high school and future college teammate Mark Foster.

Who is the most famous person you've ever met?

Olympic swimmer Rowdy Gaines.

If you could run anywhere in the world where would it be?

Iceland or out in Kenya probably.

Do you have any go-to prerace rituals?

Eating my last meal three hours out. Even if the race is at 8am, I wake up at 4:30am, chug 40oz of water, and eat some oatmeal.