By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
His classmates will be walking, but Sacred Heart Prep senior Nico Robinson will be running and jumping. And, hopefully for him, arriving in time to enjoy his grad night.
With three possible berths to the CIF State Track and Field Championships on the line, Robinson decided recently to forgo graduation ceremonies on Friday night in favor of the Central Coast Section finals at Gilroy High.
While his classmates receive their diplomas between 5-7 p.m., Robinson will be competing in two of his three events -- the long jump and 110 high hurdles. The 300 intermediate hurdles go off just after 8 p.m.
Should Robinson finish among the top three in any of his events or attain the automatic qualifying standard, he'll compete next weekend at the state championships Veterans Memorial Stadium on the campus of Buchanan High in Clovis. This was an opportunity he just couldn't pass up.
"It was pretty important to me," Robinson said of his decision to pass on SHP's graduation ceremonies.
"Missing out last year was pretty devastating."
Robinson failed to qualify for the CCS finals last season. He arrived late to the semifinals after taking the SAT that morning. He false-started out of the high hurdles, didn't run the 300 IH and failed to qualify in the long jump and high jump.
The motivation to improve upon that effort drove him this season to set school records in all three events and rank among the best in the CCS -- tied for No. 2 in the long jump (22-8 1/2), No. 3 in the high hurdles (14.42) and No. 5 in the 300 IH (38.63).
When he qualified for the CCS finals in all three events, his decision was clear.
"That gives me a 1-in-3 chance to make it to state," he said, even though his chances are closer to 2-in-3. "I think I could be the first person in Sacred Heart Prep history to go to the state meet, so that's pretty cool."
Robinson ran his personal best (14.42) in the highs at the CCS semifinals last Saturday, despite hitting the last six hurdles. He tied for second in the long jump (22-8 1/2) and finished third in the 300 intermediate hurdles (38.87).
While Robinson won't be walking with his classmates in the graduation ceremonies, he will be receiving his diploma. That will take place Friday morning during the school's honors convocation. Robinson also will get an opportunity to partake in grad night.
As soon as the 300 hurdles are done, Robinson will hop into SHP coach Ken Wilner's car and be wisked away to parts unknown.
"I have no idea," Robinson said of the grad night site.
"I know where it is, but I'm not telling," said Wilner.
While Wilner refused to divulge the site, he did acknowledge: "We're not driving to Disneyland."
Robinson said grad night runs until 2:30 a.m., and Wilner added that there's plenty of time to get Robinson there.
"He'll enjoy grad night celebrating with his classmates," promised Wilner. "Hopefully with a couple of medals around his neck."
Robinson was one of three local boys to qualify in three events for the CCS finals, which get under way at Gilroy High on Friday with field events at 4 p.m. Running begins at 6 p.m.
Palo Alto junior Nick Sullivan also qualified in three events. He was third in the 200 (22.27), third in the 400 (48.96) and helped the Vikings' 1,600 relay team finish third in 3:25.83.
Rounding out the three-event qualifiers was Menlo-Atherton junior Zach Plante. He clocked 49.56 in the 400, No. 2 in school history, in addition to leading off the 400 relay (43.23) and 1,600 relay that both qualified.
Gunn junior Sarah Robinson, Palo Alto senior Eilon Tzur, Menlo School junior Maddy Price, Gunn junior Adriana Noronha, Menlo-Atherton freshman Annalisa Crowe, Paly senior Jayshawn Gates and M-A senior George Baier all moved on in two events each.
Other area qualifiers for Friday's finals included:
Gunn freshman Gillian Meeks and M-A junior Taylor Fortnam in the girls' 3,200; Gunn freshman Maya Miklos in the girls' 300 hurdles; the Palo Alto girls' 400 relay team of Megan Tall, Alexa Garcia, Joyce Chang and Jess Branson; the M-A 1,600 relay squad of Annie Harrier, Naomi Tovar, Cassie Stansberry and Crowe; Menlo senior Walter Peacock in the 100; SHP junior Ricky Grau and Gunn senior Wyatt Eberspacher in the high hurdles; Palo Alto senior Victor Du in the long jump; SHP senior Cameron Van in the high jump (6-0); M-A's 400 relay team of Anders Ward, Deverick Meacham, Kadri Green and Plante, the Bears' 1,600 relay foursome of Plante, Connor Lindquist, Baier and Meacham; Palo Alto's 1,600 relay team of Malcolm Davis, Sullivan, Gates and Eli Givens; and Menlo School's 1,600 relay team of Michael Reed, Matt Myers, Travis Chambers and Max Parker.
CCS TRACK & FIELD SCHEDULE
At Gilroy High
4 p.m. -- Girls' pole vault
4:10 p.m. -- Girls' discus
4:15 p.m. -- Boys' triple jump
4:20 p.m. -- Girls' long jump
4:25 p.m. -- Girls' high jump
4:30 p.m. -- Boys' shot put
6:20 p.m. -- Boys' pole vault
6:25 p.m. -- Girls' shot put
6:40 p.m. -- Boys' high jump
6:45 p.m. -- Boys' discus
6:55 p.m. -- Boys' long jump
7 p.m. -- Girls' triple jump
(Girls, then boys)
6 p.m. -- 400 relay
6:20 p.m. -- 1600 meters
6:40 p.m. -- Girls' 100 hurdles
6:50 p.m. -- Boys' 110 HH
7:05 p.m. -- 400 meters
7:20 p.m. -- 100 meters
7:40 p.m. -- 800 meters
8 p.m. -- 300 hurdles
8:15 p.m. -- 200 meters
8:35 p.m. -- 3,200 meters
9:15 p.m. -- 1,600 relay
Directions to Gilroy High: Take 101 south (pass the Gilroy Outlets) to E. 10th Street exit (to the right). Head west to the school (road becomes W. 10th Street after crossing Monterey St.). Turn left on Princevale. School and entrance on right.