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Pasco's Robinson ready to face final hurdle

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001


DADE CITY -- Pasco hurdler Jessica Robinson doesn't get rattled. And if any track standout in the county has the right to be rattled the past two years, it's Robinson.

First, at last year's regional meet, a runner in the lane next to Robinson false-started in the 100-meter high hurdles. But the starter instead disqualified Robinson, despite her protests and the pleas of the coach and other observers.

"They thought she false-started and she didn't even move," Pirates coach Raven Lewis said. "Everybody saw it."

Then at the Class 2A, Region 2 meet on April 26, Robinson was about to clear the last hurdle in the 300 intermediate hurdles and was on her way to qualifying for state when her trail leg caught the hurdle and she tumbled over, hitting the track head-first, yards shy of the finish line.

"She has the heart of a champion," Lewis said. "To fall like that, to know you would have been right there to qualify, that's tough. It was tough to watch, too."

Yet Robinson rebounded. Last year, she took out her frustrations by qualifying for state in the 300 hurdles. This season, she qualified for Saturday's Class 2A finals in the 100 hurdles.

It's not her best event, but it will do as Robinson closes out her career as a mainstay of the Pasco squad.

She was a key participant in the county's top rivalry with hurdlers Jessica Penokie and Jen Hayes of Ridgewood and Erica Schultz of Hudson.

Robinson was the runner-up in both races at the Sunshine Athletic Conference meet, then won both at the Class 2A, District 6 contest.

"It wasn't a pretty sight," Robinson said of her fall. "But there's nothing I can do about that. As long as I made it (to state) in something. Now I want to make it to the finals.

"All I want is to be the best I can be. This is my last chance. I can't go back and say I'll do it next year."

Robinson's best 100 hurdles time is 16.22, and the coach hopes she can break into the 15s on Saturday.

She said she will miss the track scene the most when she leaves. She hopes to run in college, but knows it will never be the same.

"I just like coming out here and hanging out with my teammates," she said. "Having fun on the bus going to meets and stuff and afterwards socializing with other teams."

Lewis knows exactly what he'll miss when Robinson leaves: Robinson herself.

"She's very selfless, no selfishness whatsoever," Lewis said. "Jessica is naturally a hard-worker and she's been at it a long time."

As for Robinson, she's hoping for the best Saturday. But if it doesn't come, she's prepared. She's used to putting the past behind her.

"I'm moving on, there's nothing I can do about it," Robinson said.

"You can't control it, you've just got to do what you can."

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