Cross country: Nederland’s Robinson rolled as ‘front-runner’

Mark Leffingwell/Camera
Nederland’s Kelley Robinson is the girls cross country runner of the year.

Ken Robinson, the cross country coach for Nederland and father to ace runner Kelley, says the story behind one of the keys to Kelley’s success this year starts several years back.

“She was running fast enough to make most college teams in the seventh grade,” Ken says.

Kelley won the USATF National Junior Olympics that year, blowing her competition away to win by 42 seconds.

“We realized she was too young to be running that fast, so we slowed her down,” Ken says. “Up until this year what we told her to do was sit on the lead runners and out-kick them. So this year, I confessed to her last summer that that is what we had been doing to slow her down. I told her, ‘This year you have the green light to run as fast as you want to run.'”

Ken says it took Kelley most of the season to get used to her new running style, but she soon started to realize that her best race was going out hard and running the entire way.

“That was the big change for her, transitioning into a front runner. To run the pace that she feels is right for herself and basically let other people try to keep up.”

Most couldn’t keep up with Robinson, who only had two losses the entire season.

But as much as the senior has accomplished as an individual this year, she is just as happy about the success of the Nederland team, which won its fourth team state title in a row to go with Kelley’s third individual crown in four years. For her efforts, Robinson has been named the Runner of the Year.

“I never take races for granted,” Robinson says of her state win. “I wanted to run really well, and I knew Rachel Hampton and Birdie Hutton were going to be coming after me, so I knew I would have to have a good race.

“I just wanted to run really well my senior year, finish on a good note and bring my team to a final victory if I could.”

Robinson says she has her college choices narrowed down to about five schools, and will continue running wherever she ends up.

After that, she says she’ll see what happens.

“I love to run,” Kelley says. “It’s not just something I do because I have to, because my parents are coaches, or because I was good at it and people were like, ‘keep running.’ I love this sport, and I’m going to keep doing it as long as I can.”