Running Takes Sleepy Hollow Junior to Record Heights

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by Tom Pedulla –

Max Cover began competing in track at Sleepy Hollow High School to improve his endurance as a soccer midfielder. He never imagined that running would take him to record heights.

Cover broke two school records this year as a junior, demolishing the mark for 1,000 meters by 10 seconds with a time of 2:34 during the indoor season. “I think it is a very competitive record,” he said. “It’s going to take a while for somebody to break that.”

This spring, after putting behind a nagging hip injury, he lowered the school record for 800 meters to 1:59.01.

The sport has helped to teach the 5-10, 150-pound Cover to be strong mentally while pushing his physical limitations.

“It takes a lot of effort to go back onto that track after I’ve almost thrown myself into the ground,” he said. “It’s worth it when I see my time drop and set a record. It’s a wonderful feeling.”

It may be a wonderful feeling at the end of many races. Never during them.

“No matter what race I run, it’s always painful. It’s always immensely painful,” Cover said. “Your legs, your lungs, especially indoors because the air is always poor. Your head hurts because you’re overheating. Your arms are sore. Your chest hurts. It’s a full body ache.”

Part of what separates Cover is his ability to withstand that.

“Talented distance runners are able to tolerate pain better than their competition,” said Paul Gersfeld, his coach at Sleepy Hollow. “He can do that very well. He is always able to dig down a little deeper than most of his competition.

Gersfeld, who completed his 21st season at the school, added, “He’s a very competitive young man. He does not like to lose. He will take as much pain as it takes to beat whoever he is running against.”

Cover’s success starts at practice, where he demands a great deal of himself and takes few days off. He chose to run instead of standing around as he waited for a reporter to arrive. “You have to have pain to get better,” he said. “It’s very, very challenging because motivation has to come mostly from yourself.”

Gersfeld praised Cover for his versatility, noting his ability to compete from 200 meters up to much greater distances. “If I put him in the two-mile, he would probably beat everyone in the two-mile,” the coach said. “He can really do it all.”

Gersfeld described the 800-meter event as Cover’s “sweet spot.”
“It is a combination of speed and endurance. It is half a mile, going all out,” he said.
“He is a fast runner and a very strong runner.”

Cover also drives himself to great heights in the classroom. At last check, he ranked fourth in the junior class with a 4.0 grade-point average while taking advanced

“I’m very competitive. Ranking high always drives me to do more,” he said. “If I can do more, I don’t want to settle for doing just the bare minimum.” Brown currently tops the list of schools he is interested in for college.

His senior year has the potential to be special on the track. “The next season, if he really focuses, his times can dramatically drop,” Gersfeld said. He believes the 800-meter record could be lowered by as many as four seconds to 1:55.

Cover cannot wait to see how much more he can accomplish. “I’ll be that much bigger, that much stronger,” he said. “It’s very, very exciting. I can bring down these times even more. I did not expect going into this year to be breaking records.”

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