Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - December 2, 2011

Balancing act for Robinson

Gunn sophomore still running and now is playing on girls' soccer team

by Keith Peters

Gunn sophomore Sarah Robinson had a unique way of preparing for this weekend's Footlocker West Regional in cross country, set for Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.

Robinson went to practice on Tuesday, as normal, then joined the Gunn girls' soccer team for its season opener at home that night. Robinson scored two goals in a 3-1 nonleague victory over St. Ignatius.

While the soccer team will be competing in the Palo Alto Winter Classic on the Paly campus this weekend, Robinson has received a pass from Titans' coach Damian Cohen in order to compete on Saturday at the Footlocker meet.

Despite winning four of five races this season, Robinson may have to balance two sports for awhile longer. The top finishers from Saturday's race will qualify for the Footlocker National Championships at Balboa Park in San Diego on Dec. 10. Robinson is hoping to become only the third Gunn girl ever to reach the nationals, the others being Ruth Graham (2001) and Tori Tyler (2004).

Despite winning the SCVAL El Camino and Central Coast Section titles, Robinson might have had her best race of the season while finishing third at the CIF State Championships on Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno.

Robinson clocked a personal best (by nearly a minute) of 17:56 over a 5,000-meter (3.1 mile) course in the girls' Division I race. Robinson's time is the fastest by any Gunn girl at Woodward Park.

"We keep team records for our home course, Crystal Springs, Toro Park, and Woodward Park," explained Gunn assistant coach Ernie Lee. "When Ruth Graham won (the state title) in 2001, it was a muddy, rainy day (I think she has one of the slowest winning times ever). When Tori Tyler placed third in 2004, it was actually her worst race of the year."

Thus, Robinson now holds the school record on the state meet course. She ran the first mile in the front pack in 5:22, hoping to have a shot at winning. At the 1.5-mile mark, when the first long downhill begins before the first major uphill, the two girls Robinson was running with took off.

Robinson told head coach Matt Tompkins that "I felt like I was in an all-out spring and they were still able to pull away."

By the two-mile mark, Robinson had dropped back to fourth place before making a strong push to finish third overall. Hagen Reedy of Buchanan (Fresno) won in 17:27.

Robinson finished 18th among all divisions combined and was the No. 7 runner in Northern California in all divisions. She was also No. 3 overall in CCS and No. 1 in NorCal for Division I.

Also finishing third in her division was Priory senior Kat Gregory, who clocked 18:27 in the Division V race. Julia Maxwell of Branson won in 17:52. For Gregory, it was her highest finish ever, topping the 10th place she had as a sophomore.

Gregory said she was thrilled with her effort, as her goal was a top-10 finish. For comparison sake, Gregory was 59th for all the girls' divisions combined and No. 8 among all CCS runners.

Gregory will join Robinson at the Footlocker West Regional on Saturday.

The top local boy finisher was Gunn senior Andrew Prior, who finished 33rd in Division I.

"Prior ran a spectacular race and improved by over 45 seconds over his previous best and improved from 122nd last year to 33rd this year," said Lee. "Andrew ran a smart, conservative first mile in a time of 4:52 and moved up substantially throughout the race and finished in 15:53.

"Andrew said he didn't push enough in the middle of the race (if you look at the splits, he had one of the fastest final miles of the entire field), but it was still a good run for him."

The Gunn girls, meanwhile, finished 21st out of 22 teams in Division I while finishing four spots behind CCS champ Carlmont. Unfortunately for the Titans, a few of their runners were sick. Other than Robinson, Gunn's next-highest finisher was senior Christine Prior in 123rd at 20:06. Melia Dunbar (21:01), Kieran Gallagher, Tori Butner (21:34) and Elianna Ribbe (21:41) placing 162nd, 171st, 173rd, and 174th respectively to round out the Gunn girls.

In other local results:

Palo Alto freshman Katie Foug competed as an individual in Division I and finished 86th in 19:30.

In girls' Division IV, Sacred Heart Prep finished 20th in the team race while freshman Gillian Belton led the Gators with a 68th-place finish in 20:08. SHP junior Courtney Schrier, who was hit by a car last July, was the Gators' No. 2 finisher while taking 75th in 20:14 in her first state meet.

Kathryn Leahy (21:24), Meghan Holland (21:41) and Maddie Morgan (22:45) rounded out the Gators' scoring.

In girls' Division V, Pinewood freshman Nicole Colonna was 25th in 19:45 while Fiona Maloney-McCrystle of Castilleja was 70th in 21:04, helping the Gators finish 16th in the team competition. Julia Wood (21:27), Claire O'Malley (22:30), Teni Amos (23:36) and Lou Biffar (23:56) rounded out the Gators' scoring.

In boys' Division V, Priory finished 17th out of 22 teams. Sophomore Johnny Trudelle led the Panthers with a 17:55 clocking for 88th. Dylan Croll (18:28), Joe Farned (18:33), Isaac Berez (19:00) and Brian Digiorgio (19:07) wrapped up the Panthers' scoring.

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