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Robinson spinning quite a collection of records

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

Records are made to be broken – especially by John Robinson this spring at Whittell High School.

The Warriors’ junior track and field team member has broken more records than the Edinburgh-based band. In the past three meets, Robinson has brought down three different middle- and long-distance school marks.

Consequently, the track record board in the Whittell High School commons is beginning to look like it belongs on Robinson’s bedroom wall at home.

Two of the records Robinson now owns were set before Watergate and have endured track members taking aim at them for 40 years. Mike Giordano, the former 1,600 record-holder, and Gordon Speltz, the previous 800 record-holder, must have assumed long ago that their times were going to last forever.

Robinson smashed Giordano’s 40-year-old 1,600 time of 4:33.14 by posting a time of 4:27.74 on April 10 at the Bella Vista meet near Redding, Calif. Speltz lost his four-decade-old 800 record of 2:03.04 when Robinson turned in a 1:58.50 at the Reed Invitational on April 3 in Sparks.

“It’s really cool. I figured out the person who set that record is 57,” Robinson said. “It felt really good to get that, and it also felt good because no one else had done that in 40 years. Now I’m wondering how long mine will stand. If it stood for that long, I’d be very happy for someone to beat it.”

His most-recent record came on Saturday at the Capital Classic in Carson City, when he removed Jordan Trim from the books in the 400 meters with his winning time of 50.52. Trim’s former record of 51.34 stood for 12 years.

“I felt like it was possible last year, but I just never got in the right situations. This year, every record that I set was in a really, really fast meet,” Robinson said.

Robinson’s spate of records has left an impression on teammate Blake Heldt-Werle.

“It’s cool to see someone I personally know and be able to look back and realize I knew the guy who broke all of these records,” Heldt-Werle said..

What’s Robinson’s secret for bringing down all of these records at once?

“I’m working smarter. I’m working an equal amount (as before) but getting more benefit out of what I do,” Robinson said. “(Volunteer coach) Bill (Harvey) is great. He never makes me run too much, but it always seems to be very beneficial.”

Senior Chris Crawford, a teammate of Robinson’s in cross country as well, said there is an obvious reason why the schools records are falling.

“I look around, and he’s one that stands out because he’s more driven to work a lot harder,” Crawford said. “I try to do my best, but maybe he gives a cut above most people.”

Being 100 percent healthy has also contributed to Robinson’s record-smashing season. In middle school, Robinson encountered more than his share of pains stemming from his fast-growing body. He missed all of his freshman track season after knee surgery, and last year a pulled muscle kept him out of the state meet.

“It used to bother him. He became emotional about not being able to run,” Heldt-Werle said. “Now that he’s better, he’s really showing everybody what he can do and what he was capable of last year but couldn’t do.”

Foremost, Robinson has also learned that he is a runner.

“It’s a combination of things. I’ve been healthy all year and my work ethic just gets better,” Robinson said. “Every year I find out everyone else is doing their own thing. My friends are figuring out what they want to do. It’s becoming easier to run track, less of stopping what you are doing and going to practice; it’s more to what the day is expected to be.”

Robinson attributes his success to teammates Heldt-Werle and Kyler Felton, who are pushing him during circuit training in practice at Douglas High School.

“The coaches will tell them to beat me during workouts, no matter if they are running fewer reps, just try and beat me one time to get my final set to be tougher,” Robinson said.

Whittell co-coach Andrea King believes Robinson is benefitting from a broader range of conditioning and core work.

“He’s so focused that instead of training for a sport in the spring, for the first time he’s carried through the whole year conditioning and weightlifting,” King said.

That focus and commitment stem from a genuine love of running, King said.

“A lot of these kids do it because they are good at it, but they don’t love it. John loves to run,” she said. “He’s learned a lot through all of the problems he’s had that other kids haven’t had to deal with.

“Most of the kids, you have to push them and encourage them. With John you don’t have to do anything. You tell him what to do, and he’s out there doing it. I will say you are lucky to get one or two of those on a team.”

Actually, King worries about Robinson doing too much.

“Instead of having to push him, you have to make him back off, because he will do way more than what he’s asked to do,” King said. “If you tell him to go out for a 3-mile run, he’ll go out for a 6-mile run.”

South Tahoe High distance coach Dan Wilvers, who has coached individuals and teams to state championships, watched one of Robinson’s workouts on Monday at the Community Youth Sports Complex and came away impressed.

“He runs easy but fast; all the good ones do,” Wilvers said. “Runners like this don’t come along up here but every 10-15 years, it seems. And he’s getting coached well, so he’s hitting numbers not seen here before.”

With a little less than a month of the season still remaining, Robinson likely will reset some of his existing records and by the end of his prep career, he may add a few others.

“If he can take every record on that board, that’s really important to him,” King said. “I don’t know what the 200 is, but he’ll probably want that one, and I know he wants the two-mile, too.”

Chad Gerken and Ryan Forvilly can only hope that Robinson is content with records in three events. Gerken has owned the school’s 3,200 record of 10:14.94 since 2002, and Forvilly’s longstanding 200 record is 22.54. Robinson has yet to compete in either event in a high school meet.

“Just beating each one of them again at least one more time (this season),” said Robinson in response to what would satisfy him. “Under 50 in the 400 would be great, too.”

While Robinson’s school records are earning him plenty of praise on the South Shore, he hasn’t generated any interest from college coaches.

“I don’t know if my times are college worthy right now. There are plenty of kids running 4:27s,” said Robinson, whose time in the 1,600 qualified him for the Sacramento Meet of Champions on May 1. Teammate Shannon Marshall has also qualified for the meet in the high jump.

If California isn’t yet paying attention, Robinson’s goal is to run for the Golden Bears.

“That’s one of my goals. I would like to go there. That would be cool,” he said.

Editor’s note: Track and field fans can watch Robinson pursue more records in the Big George Invitational on Saturday at Douglas High School in Minden.


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