Gunn's Robinson is among elite U.S. runners | April 5, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - April 5, 2013

Gunn's Robinson is among elite U.S. runners

Junior ranks No. 2 in mile, No. 3 in 1,600 for outdoor season after big-time race

by Keith Peters

Gunn High junior Sarah Robinson had a dream of some day playing soccer for the Stanford women's team. If that dream comes true, it could start in the fall of 2014. The Stanford track coaches, however, might want to make Robinson a two-sport athlete after watching her compete at the annual Stanford Invitational last Saturday.

Running in the talented girls' mile field at Cobb Track & Angell Field, Robinson finished second, set a school record and ran one of the fastest times in the nation this season.

Just two days after competing in a SCVAL De Anza Division dual-meet win over Mountain View, Robinson blazed to a 4:49.26 time while finishing second. That time, which converts to 4:47.58 for 1,600 meters, broke the 1982 Gunn record of 4:54.85 that Esther Berndt ran in the CIF State Meet finals.

Robinson improved upon her previous best of 5:00.34 set last year while moving to No. 2 in the nation this season in the mile and No. 3 in the country in the 1,600, based on times listed on She now also ranks No. 10 all-time in the Central Coast Section.

"Sarah had an awesome race," said Gunn first-year coach PattiSue Plumer, a former All-American runner at Stanford and former assistant coach there. "We knew that it would be fast, and she executed the race plan perfectly.

"We were both thrilled that she broke 4:50 in the mile. I felt confident that she was capable of racing that fast this season, but wasn't sure that it would be today. This is the first competitive race she has been in this season, and I am very pleased with how she rose to the challenge."

Robinson, meanwhile, was a little surprised with her time.

"It was my first really competitive race of the season, and I didn't have any indication I'd do that well," she said. "I was really surprised because it was a big PR. I was really happy with that."

The race plan was to stay relaxed and right behind the lead pack, but Robinson let a big gap open up and had to chase down the leaders. By the time the final lap arrived, it was just Robinson and Anna Maxwell of San Lorenzo Valley. Maxwell took off and Robinson followed.

"Then it was instinctive," said the highly competitive Robinson.

Despite her fast time, Robinson isn't the fastest in the Central Coast Section this season. That honor goes to Maxwell, who won Saturday's race in 4:47.01. Maxwell leads the nation in the mile and ranks No. 2 in the country in the 1,600 with her converted time.

"I'm glad I have a real good starting point for the rest of the season," said Robinson.

It was a season Robinson nearly didn't have. After running in the first race of the cross-country season, Robinson was sidelined by a medical condition. While she continued to train on her own, she didn't run for Gunn between October and December and she temporarily left the U.S. Soccer Under-17 National Team.

When preseason track training began in January, Robinson returned to the Titans.

"Mentally, to get back into it (running) was exciting," Robinson said.

Plumer was happy to have an athlete like Robinson to coach in her return to the high school coaching ranks. She also was the head coach at Los Altos for six years.

"She's a superbly talented young woman, and she was before I got here," said Plumer, whose athletic career includes two NCAA titles at Stanford before embarking on a sterling post-collegiate career that was highlighted by an American record in the 5,000 meters in 1989 and a fifth place in the 3,000 in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Plumer still holds Stanford's indoor record in the mile (4:23.5) and 3,000 (8:53.1). She ran on three NCAA runner-up teams in cross country during a career that was rewarded with induction into Stanford's Athletics Hall of Fame.

"What I can bring to the table is that I truly understand her ability," Plumer said. "There are some things she can do at practice that I never saw at Stanford. The times she can hit in practice and the ease at which she can do them is stunning."

Speaking of stunning, both Plumer and longtime Cal coach Tony Sandoval were blown away with the times in the girls' mile at the Stanford Invitational.

"I can't recall a time when anyone broke 4:50 at the meet, let alone two," Plumer said. "Tony has been at just about every Stanford Invitational and he couldn't recall a faster time."

Not only did the first two runners break 4:50, but the next three now make up the five fastest outdoor miles in the nation this season.

Robinson accepts her time in a matter-of-fact way and looks forward to getting better. She'll continue to run in the 400, 800 and 1,600 with the focus of improving her speed in the metric mile.

"PattiSue has done a really good job," Robinson said of her new coach. "She's a really good resource for me."

In addition to her track training, Robinson is back training with her soccer club team. As for re-joining the U.S. Soccer U-17 team, that decision will come, Robinson said, "when the time is right."

While Robinson was the individual standout among local athletes competing at Stanford, the Palo Alto boys' 400 relay team and Sacred Heart Prep senior Nico Robinson both made significant improvements upon their CCS-leading marks during Saturday's second day of the meet.

The Vikings' quartet of Matt Tolbert, Jayshawn Gates, Michael Johnson and Nick Sullivan finished third in 42.31, a season best and the fastest in the section this season. Castro Valley won Saturday's race in 41.85, No. 3 in the state, with De La Salle was second in 42.00 (No. 5 in the state).

Paly, which ranks No. 14 in the state now, had equaled its CCS-leading time of 42.53 in the prelims.

Sullivan returned to the track for the open 400 and produced the fastest time of his life, 48.67, while finishing fourth overall. Sullivan's time helped him win the second heat and lowered his previous CCS-leading time of 49.63.

Sullivan now ranks No. 2 in Paly history, behind the 48.2 (48.34 converted) by Rod M. Green in 1980.

SHP's Robinson, meanwhile, continued his busy week by finishing third in the boys' 110 high hurdles in 14.90. That lowered his previous CCS leader from 14.94. On Friday, Robinson unleashed his best long jump of the season (a legal 22-8 1/2) while finishing fifth. He also took sixth in the 400 intermediate hurdles while running it for the first time.

Earlier in the week, Robinson won three events while helping the Gators win a West Bay Athletic League meet. One of the three wins was a 22-6 1/2 mark in the long jump.

Robinson's teammate, Cameron Van, also saw improvement Saturday as he recorded a 6-2 1/2 mark in the high jump while taking seventh.

Menlo School junior Maddy Price also had a season best as she clocked 57.27 while finishing fifth overall in the girls' 400. That moved her to No. 3 in the CCS this season.

The Stanford Invitational saw four U.S.-leading marks this past weekend. In addition to Maxwell's in the girls' mile, the meet saw Nate Moore of Castro Valley leap a U.S. best of 48-11 1/2 in the boys' triple jump, Madeline Fagan of Los Gatos jump a co-best 5-10 3/4 in the girls' high jump and Yohaness Estifanos of Milpitas run the fastest boys' 3,000 (8:29.78) in the country.

The next big invitationals for local athletes will be the Serra Top 7 on April 13 and the CCS Top 8 on April 19.


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