Last winter Jacob Robinson described the experience of running in his first indoor state track and field meet as a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity. He could have amended that on Saturday to a “twice-in-a-lifetime” opportunity.
For the second year in a row, Robinson made it to the awards podium, where he stood with a pair of third-place medals (one for the state public schools and one for the federation) dangling around his neck. For the second year in a row, the Riverhead senior ran the 200-meter leg for a third-place intersectional medley-relay team.
“Same place, same thing,” he said.
Well, not exactly. Robinson said he had more fun and felt less nerves on this return trip to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships.
It was an icy day outside, so cold that one might have thought his nose would freeze and break off. But inside Cornell University’s Barton Hall, an old hangar-like structure in Ithaca, the action on the track was heating up.
At 8:48 a.m., majestic Olympic music played as the boys 4×400-meter runners marched around the track, the drama building toward a full day’s activities at the state championships. The meet is well organized and the runners are fast. Really fast.
Robinson stood alongside his coach, Sal Loverde, watching some of the earlier events before his time came to run in the intersectional medley relay along with his Section XI teammates — Utsav Deshpande of Sachem East, Nick Fenton of Deer Park and Jacob Kahrs of Walt Whitman. They’re all seniors except for Fenton, a sophomore.
Robinson’s event didn’t start until the meet was three hours old, but he said he kept his focus on the task at hand.
When race time arrived, Robinson hopped in place as he waited for his second-leg run. He wore Section XI’s dark blue shirt, blue socks and a No. 1186 bib, but where was his good-luck white headband that he normally runs with? Robinson later explained that he didn’t see any other runners donning headbands and wasn’t sure if it was legal, so he didn’t want to take any chances.
He said: “I really didn’t see any other runners have headbands so I’m like: I don’t want to mess that up. No, not today.”
Headband or no headband, Robinson is still among the fastest runners in the state. The athlete, who is bound for La Salle University in Philadelphia, did his job. Section XI was in the second position, behind Section V, when Robinson received the baton from Deshpande, who ran the first 1,000 meters. Section XI was still in second place after Robinson’s handoff to Fenton 23.23 seconds later.
“He was moving,” said Loverde. The coach heaped praise on his team captain, saying: “He looked great. I thought he ran a great 200 leg. He looked very competitive. He reeled in a little ground. This is just a kid who has the right work ethic. He leads the team as a captain in a tremendous way, and he deserves what he has achieved, without question.”
Robinson said, “I guess I was just ready to really run.”
Robinson said his team’s baton exchanges were “perfect.” His only complaint was about the tight turns on the track, which can make athletes feel as if they’re running on the edge.
“It’s hard to run on this track,” Robinson said. “… When I turn, I feel like I’m just hanging on.”
Fenton ran 600 meters and Kahrs handled the 1,600 anchor leg. Section XI, which had the 10th-fastest seed time among the 11 teams entered, fell back as far as the sixth position before Kahrs, running his 1,600 in 4:34.37, rallied to give the Suffolk County team a third-place finish in 9:01.30. Section I came in first at 8:55.87, followed by Section II at 8:59.47.
“That’s all I really wanted,” Robinson said. “I wanted a medal on my last year, just to have one more medal.”
Four state medals in two years isn’t bad. They make a nice addition to Robinson’s trophy collection.
As for that headband, Robinson is not throwing it away. Despite this run without it, he said he has not altered his personal headband policy.
He said, “It will come back.”