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River Hill sprinter Sydney Robinson in the 2018 girls outdoor track and field Athlete of the Year.
River Hill sprinter Sydney Robinson in the 2018 girls outdoor track and field Athlete of the Year. (Jen Rynda / BSMG)

When you compete in four events at a state outdoor track and field meet, there’s not much time to relax. Just ask River Hill junior sprinter Sydney Robinson.

Shortly after checking in for the 100-meter dash at the 2A state championships on May 26, she scurried across the field at Morgan State University in Baltimore to report for her field event, the long jump. She jumped once, then rushed back to the starting line for the 100.

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“I started freaking out a little bit because I thought I lost all of my energy from the runway from the long jump and wouldn’t have enough for the 100,” Robinson said. “But then I told myself I was psyching myself out and that I needed to focus.”

In reality, Robinson had little to worry about. She ran a splendid race, the best of her career in terms of time. She crossed the finish line first in 12.08 seconds — more than two tenths better than her previous personal record — to win her first outdoor state title.

There was little time to celebrate, though, as the long jump was ongoing. Minutes remained before the finals portion of the competition. So, Robinson hurried back to the event and jumped 17 feet, 4 inches, to make the finals. She then exceeded that distance by four inches to set another personal record and finish as the runner-up.

Multiple athletes from River Hill and Reservoir won individual state championships at Morgan State on May 26.

And the highlights did not stop there. Next came the 400, during which she placed fourth (57.88 seconds), and later in the day, she took second (25.24) in the 200. The 31 points she earned for state runner-up River Hill were more than 21 of the 29 teams competing in the girls’ 2A classification.

“We always discuss what kind of day it was,” said Ernest Robinson, Sydney’s father. “I walked over to her at the end and I said, ‘How do you think you did?’ She said, ‘Dad, I think we had a really good day. We had a good day, Dad.’”

Robinson’s state championship showing was emblematic of her postseason dominance this spring, and all of these results played a role in her achieving another honor: Howard County Times/Columbia Flier girls outdoor track and field Athlete of the Year. Between counties, regions and states, Robinson took home six individual titles.

“Not to say it was expected, but it didn’t surprise us as much because of who the individual is out there competing,” Hawks sprints coach Donnie Richmond said about Robinson’s state meet brilliance. “If you become acquainted with Sydney and you see how businesslike she is — especially at the big meets — it’s like [Dick Vitale] would say: she’s a prime-time player. When you need someone to perform, she’s that player. She’s that sprinter.”

The All-County team for the 2018 girls outdoor track and field season
The All-County team for the 2018 girls outdoor track and field season (Chart)

Robinson’s parents, Ernest and Benita Robinson, placed her in several sports starting around the age of 3. She did not possess much aptitude for soccer, Ernest admits, but she could run fast. She could catch and hit in tee ball, but her speed stood out.

“Anything that she’s done, she’s always loved to run,” Benita said.

It did not take long for Robinson’s parents to place her in the Howard County Recreation & Parks track program, and not long after that, Elite Track Club coach Sharron Smith spotted Robinson running one day. She immediately saw Robinson’s potential and offered to help fine-tune her skills.

Just like that, Robinson started training with a club track program consisting of seventh and eighth graders. She was 6 years old.

“I like to be the first one,” Robinson said. “But they were much older than me and stronger than me. They were way faster. I learned that I have to improve my speed and technique and form in order to be with them during the workouts and practices.”

At age 7, Robinson began annually competing at the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and USA Track & Field nationals, and by 9, she won a gold medal in the long jump at the AAU’s Junior Olympic Championships.

Under the tutelage of Smith, who remains Robinson’s personal coach to this day, Robinson continued to develop each year of elementary and middle school. By Robinson’s freshman year, Benita said it was already apparent her daughter would be able to eventually compete at the collegiate level.

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“Sydney is like my little sister,” said teammate Jasmine Tiamfook, who is a year older than Robinson. “It’s kind of crazy, especially when she was so young. I remember her very first tryout and seeing her run through at like 57 [seconds] with no competition.

“And then seeing her on the state stage come in first [this year], it’s just a culmination of all of her hard work.”

Sure, Robinson’s natural talent has been partly responsible for her decorated high school career — all the county and region titles, top-five state meet finishes and two state championships — but several other attributes have led to these triumphs. Her ambition — “she’s hard-working to the max,” Tiamfook said — and passion have helped. As have her maturity, mental toughness and confidence, those around Robinson said.

Robinson earns Howard County girls indoor track and field Athlete of the Year honors

These traits are how Robinson won the 500 indoor region title as a freshman and took fourth and second in the 300 and 500, respectively, at the state event. That spring, she qualified for the state meet in three events and finished no worse than 11th.

After transferring to Mt. Hebron for her sophomore year to work with Smith’s daughter — Vikings coach Teyarnte Carter — Robinson excelled in the 55, 300, 500 and long jump en route to winning girls indoor track and field Athlete of the Year.

Residence issues forced Robinson to return to River Hill for her junior season, but the transition did not curb her growth. She made the All-County team this winter while beginning to figure out the next step in her track career. She’s already attended junior days at Miami and Ohio State.

While Robinson visited different colleges, some coaches told her to just focus on the 200 and 400 events, Ernest said. Richmond calls them her “money events,” and nobody disagrees. She’ll likely focus on those distances at the next level. However, she’s made significant strides in the 100 and long jump over her career, so she maintained her stance on wanting to earn as many points for her team as possible.

Richmond and Smith coordinated workouts to ensure Robinson could accomplish this task. She focused more on endurance training at the beginning of the season to improve her stamina, then pivoted to increased speed work towards the end of April.

And by the county championships on May 7 and 8, she reaped the benefits of that regiment by scoring 33 points to help River Hill place second. She then totaled 38 points at the 2A South region meet, taking first in the 200, 400 and long jump and second in the 100. The Hawks subsequently ran away with the regional crown.

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Robinson’s most impressive marks, though, came at the state championships on May 26, and they allowed for the River Hill girls to become outdoor state runner-up for just the third time in program history.

Simply put, Robinson and the Hawks had a really good day.

Also named to the All-County team:

Lola Alli, Reservoir, senior.

Alli made the All-County team for the second straight outdoor season thanks to her efforts in the discus and shot put. She won a county title in discus with a throw of 115 feet, 8 inches and followed that up with a victory in the 3A East region meet and a fifth-place finish at the state championships. In the shot put, Alli took fifth at the league meet and third at regionals.

Tyuanna Bailey, Howard, senior.

Bailey excelled in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races as well as the 4x200 relay. She posted three top-five marks at counties, then won the 200 and 400 while taking second in the 100 in the 4A North meet. At states, she qualified in three individual events.

Cassidy Bunyard, Atholton, junior.

Bunyard was the best high jumper in the county this season. After finishing third at the county meet last year, she won the title this spring by clearing five feet for the league champion Raiders, who broke a 30-plus-year outdoor county championship drought. She posted the same result at the 3A East meet, which was good for second place.

The Howard boys and Atholton girls ran away with outdoor track and field county titles on May 8 at River Hill.

Kailee Bunyard, Atholton, junior.

An All-County indoor selection, Bunyard continued her county dominance in the shorter hurdles this outdoor season. She won the 100 hurdles with a time of 16.17 seconds and then ran a personal-best 49.97 seconds in the 300 hurdles to take sixth. At the state championships, she was a part of the Raiders’ 4x100 and 4x200 relay squads.

Morgan Flack, Mt. Hebron, senior.

While an individual title escaped her this season, Flack established herself as one of the county’s top sprinters. She came in second behind Athlete of the Year Sydney Robinson in the 100, sixth in the 200 and fourth in the 400. She qualified for states in two individual events and was also part of Vikings’ state-championship 4x400 relay foursome.

Olivia Island, River Hill, senior.

The momentum of an All-County indoor season carried into this spring for Island, who won the pole vault at counties by clearing a personal-best nine feet. She also set a new personal record of 16.23 seconds in the 100 hurdles to snag second. A regional championship in the pole vault followed, as did a fourth-place finish in the 300 hurdles at the state meet.

Faith Meininger, River Hill, freshman.

An All-County selection for the third straight season, Meininger was a significant reason why the Hawks were 2A South champions and state runner-up. After dealing with a left tibia injury early in the season, Meininger swept the 3,200-meter race at counties, regions and states, the last of which she ran in 11:13.31 to beat her previous personal record by more than 10 seconds. She also won the 1,600 region title and took third in the event at the state meet.

Camryn Streib, Atholton, junior.

Streib won her first individual postseason title this spring, winning the 1,600 at counties (5:19.58) to go along with a runner-up effort in the 3,200. Those performances went a long way in helping Atholton win its first outdoor county title since 1986. She replicated those places at the region meet, then took second in the 1,600 at the state meet by running a personal-best 5:14.28.

Oluwaseun Sule, Oakland Mills, junior.

Following an All-County winter season, Sule excelled in the long and triple jump again this spring. She won the triple jump county title (personal record 36-4) while finishing fifth in the high jump and 200. Her best event at the state meet was the 100, as she finished fifth with a personal-best time of 12.39 seconds.

Adaobi Tabugbo, Reservoir, sophomore.

Just two years into her high school career, Tabugbo has already established herself as one of the state’s premier hurdlers. She swept the 100 hurdles at the postseason meets while nabbing third in the 300 hurdles after not running the event at counties. On June 17, Tabugbo competed at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor in North Carolina. She crossed the finish line of the 100 hurdles in 14.29 seconds, setting a new personal record to take third in the Emerging Elite Division.

Atholton, Howard, Reservoir and River Hill all recently took home regional championships.

Asha Taitt, Reservoir, sophomore.

Taitt had little trouble against her competition in the long jump this season. She won the event at the league meet (16-4.5) and the 3A East region championships (personal-best 17-0). She then matched that mark at the state event to finish second while also helping Reservoir come in third in the 4x100 relay.

Jasmine Tiamfook, River Hill, senior.

Tiamfook, the reigning girls cross country runner of the year and All-County indoor selection, did most of her work in the 800 and 1,600. After two runner-up performances at the region meet, Tiamfook was eighth in the 1,600 and third in the 800 at states. She also ran in the 4x400 and 4x800 relay at the state meet.

Satori Valentine, Mt. Hebron, sophomore.

Valentine was the only freshmen to make All-County last season, and she performed at an even higher level this spring. She triumphed in the 400 and 800 at the county and regional meets before finishing fifth and second, respectively, at the state championships. She was also a member of the Vikings’ state-championship winning 4x400 relay team.

Morgan Young, Atholton, junior.

Young flourished in the discus and shot put. She won the shot put county title (35-5), then took second at regionals and fifth at states with a personal-best throw (37-4.5). In the discus, she was third at the county meet and second at the region championships.

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