LAKEWOOD — As recently as two years ago, Kelly Robinson of Nederland and Birdie Hutton of Shining Mountain could revel in every perk that comes with being good friends as well as competitive rivals whenever the state track and field finals rolled around.
As two of the top distance runners in the state, regardless of classification, the duo has always enjoyed racing fiercely while always embracing amicably at the finish line.
Yet when a Class 1A division was added last season, dropping Shining Mountain from the ranks of Class 2A, their days of competing directly against one another at state were over. However, as evidenced by a record-setting sequence on Thursday, their bond remains strong.
Only moments after Robinson helped Nederland establish a Class 2A record in the 3,200-meter relay, she zipped to the side of the track to cheer for Hutton, who broke her own 1A meet record in the 3,200-meter run while claiming her second consecutive state title.
“It’s weird because Birdie and I used to run against each other, but then they did 1A,” Robinson said. “It’s different, but I’m glad I can see her run. Birdie and I are pretty good friends, so it’s pretty exciting.”
The Princeton-bound Hutton blew away the field in the 3,200, posting a winning time of 11 minutes, 49.83 seconds. Hutton’s previous meet record was a mark of 12:09.06, set last year.
“I wanted to get a record and also take one for the team,” Hutton said. “There’s always a chance that there’s going to be someone to give me a run for the money. Anything can happen during a race so there are still the nerves there. But I felt really good coming into the race.”
Robinson anchored a 3,200 relay team for Nederland that also broke a state mark. The quartet of Rebecca Hermann, Mackenzie Belden, Bailey Kuechenmeister, and Robinson put together a winning time of 9:42.86 to establish a fresh state record.
“Coming out here, we just thought it was a privilege just to be here, but we decided we could go for something great,” Robinson said. “Even though we all have events after this, we said, ‘This is our relay.’ It was pretty cool, coming out here and getting it done. It was pretty impressive and I’m so proud of my team.”
Follow Pat Rooney on Twitter: @prooney07