Is Robinson the state’s best?
If the exhausting San Diego running drill can’t slow down John Robinson, then how can Nevada and Northern California high school runners and various cross country courses in the region impede the Whittell High School senior’s dramatic progress?
Anyone watching Robinson attack the 40-minute nonstop change-of-pace drill during coach Lindsay Wines’ grueling workout on Wednesday could surmise that the area’s next big-time runner won’t be running in virtual obscurity for much longer.
“John trains like a madman. He deserves what he gets,” said teammate Mikey George. “It would be nice to be that fast one day. Maybe in college.”
Robinson, a fourth-place finisher at last year’s Nevada Class 2A state meet, just might be the top cross country runner in the state this fall – and that might include each of the state’s four classifications.
The four-event winner at last spring’s 2A state track and field championships will gauge his early season standing at tonight’s UNR Twilight meet at Shadow Mountain Park in Sparks.
“I’ve been waiting for a race for like three months,” Robinson said. “Friday night will be culmination of a lot of work.
“The work I did last year is incomparable to this summer. I worked so much more this summer, every day.”
Robinson’s most heated competition in the 2A will come from Sierra Lutheran’s Nathanael Williams, who Robinson has never beaten. Galena’s Bryan Jordan, last year’s 4A state runner-up to Carson’s Richard Shroy, should be the favorite for tonight’s boys’ race.
“I’d be really surprised if John didn’t do really well Friday. He’s not at all intimidated by the bigger schools or things like that,” Wines said. “What I want to see is how my other four guys do. I’m really interested in seeing what kind of pack they are capable of running in and how they are going to push each other, because that’s going to be key. We’ve got to have guys who are going to back up John.”
Wines said that the confidence and success Robinson achieved last spring in track and field has served as a springboard to maybe even greater feats.
“He discovered his talents. He knew he was good,” Wines said. “Believe or not, I think he is more driven than he was last year at this time. He just works so hard.”
If Robinson is able to run down a state championship this fall, he will become the first Whittell male to win a Nevada individual title in 30 years. The school’s last state champion was George Buchholz in 1980 – the last of four consecutive Warrior winners.
As talented and engaged as Robinson is, the team around him isn’t so bad either. George, a junior, and junior Zach Welch are seasoned runners and veterans of big meets. The Warriors also welcome back sophomore Josh Welch, Zach’s younger brother, and sophomore Kyle Crawford. Wines received a pleasant addition to the team in senior Tanner Siegel. Siegel should ease the loss of Chris Crawford – now at the Citadel – as he’s been running third on the team in preseason workouts.
“He’s going to be a big help. Without him the hopes of going to state would not be as ambitious,” Wines said.
Wines said the prospects for her team are exciting.
“These kids are pretty fired up. They were excited at the end of the school year. John got a bunch of them to go out and run with him during the summer,” Wines said. “I think these kids could end up at the state championships and surprise some people.”
Wines has directed the cross country program throughout Robinson’s high school career, and he appreciates what the veteran coach means to the sport an the team.
“She was my first high school coach that I’ve ever had. It’s awesome to have it come full circle,” Robinson said. “She’s definitely one of my favorite coaches. If she wasn’t here, no one would be doing cross country.
“Every year we typically start out at the bottom of the totem pole, but by the end of the year we are always state competitive, and she can take credit for that.”
The Whittell girls’ “team” will be led by Sammy Rupp. Rupp, who finished 15th at last year’s state meet, was only one of two girls participating in Wednesday’s workout.
As the Warriors completed the San Diego drill and headed for the water cooler for a soothing drink, there were several high-fives, acknowledging that another tough workout was behind them.
“It’s like everyone’s least-favorite thing,” Robinson said. “It doesn’t even matter how fast you run. That amount of running time is benefitting all of these people who might not have trained over the summer.”