The Nation's Oldest Continuously Published Student Newspaper

The Simpsonian

The Nation's Oldest Continuously Published Student Newspaper

The Simpsonian

The Nation's Oldest Continuously Published Student Newspaper

The Simpsonian

Max Cleveland: Placing a checkmark on the goal sheet

Vasha Hunt
Max Cleveland broke the 60-meter hurdle time for the first time in December with a record of 8.00 seconds.

As the Earth rotates around its axis and the athletic season flips to spring, members of the track and field team lace up their spikes and hit the track. One of those student-athletes lacing up for sprints and hurdles is fifth-year Max Cleveland.

This season, every time Cleveland crosses the finish line, he’s breaking school records and accomplishing goals he’s had since his first year. One of the goals he had written down before the season started was breaking the school’s 60-meter hurdle record. Cleveland broke his own school record in Boston on Feb. 10. Twice.

Cleveland ran a time of 8.15 and easily won his heat, qualifying as one of the four heat winners. In the final, he ran a blistering 7.95 seconds, which earned him second place. His time now ranks second in Division III this season and is tied for 11th all-time.

Cleveland can be credited with a long list of honors and awards for the Simpson track and field team, dating back to his first year when he won his first collegiate event at the Dutch Athletics Classic. There, he ran 8.77 seconds in the 60-meter hurdles. Unfortunately, that was in 2020, so the outdoor season was canceled due to the pandemic.

In December, Cleveland broke the 60-meter hurdle time for the first time with a record of 8.00 seconds and won the event. He also competed in the high jump for the first time since 2020 and won the event with a career-best mark of 1.88 meters. Cleveland also picked up wins in Wartburg and Grinnell. And the track and field team still has their outdoor season.

“It’s [breaking records] been cool and fun to see. It’s been a lot of work that’s paying off right now,” Cleveland said. “I’m grateful to be healthy this season, to get to practice and experience all those things with my teammates because it’s fun to run fast and then have that time with your teammates.”

At the end of the season, Cleveland hopes to be first in the conference and a national champion. He also has goals that don’t relate to seeing his name next to a title. 

“I think just finding joy in doing it, appreciating track as a gift other than this huge pressure, which is a big part of it, too,” he said.

 Cleveland has been able to find the joy or fun, as he put it, by being able to compete in more events. While hurdles are his favorite event, he’s enjoyed being able to compete in the high jump and a few other running events. He also credits a lot of the fun and enjoyment of this season to his teammates.

A backstory on Cleveland’s running

Cleveland credits his dad for getting him into track. Cleveland has been running since before middle school and ran his first year in the sport in 7th grade. His dad, David Cleveland, was Simpson’s track and field coach for 15 years, so his dad’s love of the sport rubbed off onto Cleveland. His dad was his coach for his first two years on the track team. 

“It was a different experience, but a sweet one. And then, obviously, I had a previous coach for two years, and now Hoff and Mosher this year,” Cleveland said. “So, I’ve had different people invest in me and not even coaches, like trainers and my guy, Matt Dewall, at 21st Century and people in high school. So, I would say my dad got me into track, but there’s been a lot of people since that then have invested and contributed a lot.”

Cleveland loves running and doing hurdles because he enjoys competing against others.

“Especially this year, I’ve gotten to experience great joy in doing it and for the last time, and I thank God for that,” Cleveland said. “But, also along the way, I’ve had four years of harder seasons, and it’s taught me a lot, not just for track, but also for life and my relationships with others.”

Cleveland’s education and future plans

A big part of why Cleveland picked Simpson was because of his dad coaching at the school. But he is grateful he stuck around.

Cleveland is triple-majoring in human services, psychology and religion. Deciding to triple major came largely in part to taking a fifth year and because he likes challenges. Cleveland took a fifth year to experience track again with his teammates.

“Off the track, we enjoy each other and enjoy spending time with each other,” he said.“So, experiencing that, and there’s unfinished business, you want to reach the goals you set up too.” Cleveland said.

He said that balancing being a student-athlete is tricky because if you want to be at the elite level of competition, you need to sleep well, eat well, drink water, and rest, but you also have to balance schoolwork and a possible internship.

“I think my relationship with God keeps me grounded in realizing rest versus work, but it’s definitely a challenge,” he said.

Cleveland is also a SARA (Sexual assault response advocate) and has been for the past three years. He wanted to become a SARA because there wasn’t a lot of male representation, and he wanted people to have somebody to talk to and see that it doesn’t matter as a separate issue.

“Guys can care about this and invest themselves in this issue and make a big difference,” he said. “I think being able to model that, but also learn more about how to be an advocate and learn all of the resources.”

Cleveland plans to attend Wheaton College next to do clinical mental health counseling. He doesn’t plan on continuing to run competitive sprinting after Simpson and is unsure if he will continue running, especially distance.

His advice to aspiring track runners

Cleveland believes that track can have a lasting impact beyond the four to five years of involvement, especially if you invest in your teammates and appreciate it for what it is.

“A lot of it is a little bit of suffering and going through hard things and challenges and overcoming those, and that’s what life’s about,” Cleveland said. “So, my advice is not leaning into how can I be a good track athlete and do all the little things and details, but how can that make me a better friend, roommate, spouse, teammate right now and in the future.”

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Abby Hintz
Abby Hintz, ID Magazine Editor-in-Chief & Layout Editor

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