Max Burkholder, a senior biology major, is one of seven Maple Leafs who will compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics cross country championship race in Vancouver, Washington, on Friday.

The conference race (which took place on Nov.  9) had a lot of pressure on it for your team to make nationals. Did you feel pressure going into it?

Yeah, I definitely did, especially since I’m a senior. I knew it could have been my last race, so I was like, “I’m just gonna go.”  There was definitely some motivation from that.

Tell me about the race.  You were fourth for Goshen, right?

I felt like it was a really good race for me. I beat both Solomon (Weibe-Powell) and Kibet (Kipchumba), but the race before I didn’t beat them. So it was kind of nice, I guess, to come back from that. It’s a slower course, but my time was 27:06 (for 8 kilometers), which I think is pretty good for that course.

What do you think about while you’re racing?

I kind of think, like, “I know I’m in a lot of pain, but if I just push through it will be over sooner.” I think, “Just keep going, keep picking people off and stay with it.”

Your freshman year, you ran in the 30s and you’ve slowly been moving up on the team since then.  How do you do it?

I would say I became a lot faster my second semester sophomore year, in track. I don’t know exactly how I did that. I guess I had been working hard and I realized I could do well. Then going into junior year, I was like, “Yeah, I can be in the top seven.”  I didn’t necessarily think I would eventually be a national qualifier.

Nationals will be your last collegiate cross country race.  Do you have a goal?

I guess breaking 26 would be nice, and I think there will be a lot of good competition, so it’s possible.  But  it’s a low-pressure race now, so I just kind of want to have fun with it and run well.