Have you ever thought of spending a summer rock climbing in Alaska? How about becoming a certified zip-line acrobatic specialist? Ever wondered what it would be like to do a backflip into a 200-foot deep ice crevasse, or to experience the difficulties of living on a glacier for 12 days? Ever heard of chia seeds in a limeade drink?
These adventurous interests are just the beginning of understanding the life of Lester Maxwell, Linfield’s senior middle-distance runner.
During the school year, Maxwell engages in tamer, but no less time-consuming, activities.
He was at the helm of the opening of the Linfield Garden, located next to Melrose Hall, as club president during the 2010-2011 school year.
He also is the student coordinator for the up-and-coming, after-school program KidFit, in which school-age kids learn about fitness and wellness – including healthy eating habits and nutrition – and participate in activities such as karate, special guest speeches and Linfield student-athlete meet-and-greets. Maxwell is proud of the program for the learning and teaching opportunities it has provided for him, the children and other Linfield students.
Maxwell feels his Linfield experiences have helped shape him as a person, since they have fostered his sense of competition, as well as a sense of community.
“It’s always great how people can come together for events on campus like Wildstock last year, or to support our nationally ranked athletic teams. I think that is something that is special and defining I've noticed during my time here,” says Maxwell.
Competition has been a part of Maxwell’s life for as long as he has been in sports. Though he found his niche in track, he has also tried other sports such as basketball and wrestling.
His competitive spirit does not stop at athletics, however.
Maxwell confesses, “I always appreciate challenges and will never back down from one. This has led to many failed eating contests, cinnamon challenges, one-legged bike races, pogo sticking, crying from eating habaneros, dance-offs and freestyle rap battles”.
This competitive attitude, according to Maxwell, comes from being a skinny kid in middle and high school. He always felt outmatched by his larger friends and foes, so he resorted to having a “scrappy, competitive attitude” in order to attempt to intimidate them.
However, in the long run, Maxwell’s desire for competition has elevated him to become a team leader and positive role model.
According to head track and field coach Travis Olson, “Lester has always been a great addition to our team. I think what sets him a part is his work ethic and the attitude he brings to practice everyday. Lester really knows how to compete and sets a great example for the rest of our team, and is very well respected by his coaches and teammates. This is why he is one of our team captains this year.”
Serving as team captain is a tremendous accomplishment, especially considering the amount of time Maxwell’s injuries have taken away from his running career. He has endured chronic ankle problems, likely caused by a lisfranc fracture. This type of injury, a microfracture on the top of the foot, is rare for distance runners as is usually only found in jumpers.
For the past two years, Maxwell has been on crutches and unable to run in the month of March, and he believes his injuries continue to impact him today, mentally if not physically.
“Once I was injured, I went into this big, negative spiral that just kept bringing me down. I could never train in our indoor season in January and February, which would impact my outdoor season, and the only way I could get out of it was to keep my head up and keep positive,” Maxwell said. “But there is always that voice in the back of my head that worries about pushing myself or racing too hard and reinjuring myself.”
After attending two other schools before transferring in, Maxwell has made Linfield his home.
Taking advantage of the exercise science program, he hopes to eventually attend graduate school for physical therapy. Immediately, however, Maxwell hopes to work for Brooks running company in their performance lab, testing footwear as a part of a nine-month, paid internship. Maxwell has already completed an internship with the local physical therapy clinic, where he found his passion for helping people through the recovery process.
His desire comes from a deep and personal understanding of the irritation, stress and frustration that accompany long-term injuries.
Maxwell certainly has experience applying his studies to real-world situations. What he learns over his final semester at Linfield will only help him continue to go the distance.
-- Kelsey McGarry '16