Freshman leading Hornets

Victor Nieto

It was 10 years ago when current Sacramento State freshman-phenom Renisha Robinson went on a trip with her dad to the San Jose State field as he trained for an upcoming recreational race. Robinson, who was 8 years old at the time, noticed that at the track, a group of kids were already there practicing for an organized track club.


After studying the group, she went back to her father and exclaimed “I know I can outrun at least half of those kids.”


This is around the time that Ronald Robinson recalls his daughter taking a serious interest in running competitively. Since that time, Robinson, now 18, has translated that confident attitude into numerous awards and records in the sports of track and field and cross country as well as a rare triple-sport athlete at the collegiate level.


Although Robinson’s specialty is in the 800 meters (two laps, what many athletes and coaches consider a sprinter’s specialty), she has managed to lead the Hornet women’s cross country in each of the first two matches. Finishing 12th individually in her first Sac State Jamboree, she is well on her way to helping her team finish 3rd overall, a feat that has impressed her coach, Scott Abbott.


“For her to repeat that performance, it’s very encouraging because she is only a freshman,” Abbott said. “It shows a real high level of ability that bodes well for her spring events as well as the future of cross country.”


Although her early showings have been very promising, the broad shouldered and sanguine smiling Robinson isn’t completely satisfied with her results.


“She’s very confident in her abilities,” her mother Regina Robinson said. “So when she finished 12th last Saturday, she was really disappointed because she thought she could do better.”


Although she expressed an interest in running at a young age, it wasn’t until high school when Robinson decided to be involved in athletics.


“I realized that I wanted to pursue track and cross country as a freshman in high school. I just wanted to be the best and put forth the extra effort,” Robinson said.


That effort has permeated into a fourth place finish in the state during her senior year at Archbishop Mitty in San Jose, a record-setting time at the Stanford invitation as a sophomore, and long list of other awards and achievements that led other Division I schools such as Georgia, Utah and UC Berkeley knocking at her door offering scholarships.


Athletic ability appears to be an innate part of the Robinson gene. Her father and sister Keisha Jeffcoat were track stars during their high school years, and her cousins are former defensive NFL stars Jim Jeffcoat of the Cowboys and Victor Riley of the Chiefs.


Although Robinson comes off genuinely unsurprised with her success at Sac State and during her high school days, it’s definitely not attributed to her lineage.


“I think a lot of people in sports doubt themselves from time to time, but p ersonally I’m not surprised at all because I put so much work and effort towards my training. And when you compete well, your confidence will go higher,” Robinson said.


Confidence is a trademark that Robinson’s family said is always a part of her when she’s on the field competing. However, away from track is a different story.


Her sister Keisha, 32, said the best word to describe Robinson is “quirky” because she is always laughing and having a good time. She is especially fond of comedies, one of her favorites being “Friday.” If you watch a movie with her and are notorious for falling asleep, don’t be surprised if you wake up with the taste of hot sauce in your mouth, something her mother learned during a movie night among the girls.


Robinson said she is foremost a student-athlete, with her priorities being “education, responsibilities to track, and then her social life.”


Admittedly, the latter has been the toughest to negotiate, but when she does have time, she is likes to go dancing.


“I don’t know if I should say I like going to the clubs, but I like to dance and just hang out with my friends,” Robinson said.


“She is an amazing dancer,” Keisha said. When Robinson visited Keisha in Atlanta, Ga., a couple years ago, the two sisters went to a skating rink that had a mix of dancing and skating.


“She was doing the full splits and bouncing up and down and in different ways,” Keisha said. “It was crazy!”


On and off the field, Robinson’s charisma and subtle confidence have been hard to miss, and her genuineness hard to misinterpret.


“She’s very mature for her age and kind of a galvanizing force on the team,” Coach Abbott said. “She undoubtedly will grow into a leadership role in this program.”


The energetic, smiling freshman said she’s looking forward to her future at Sac State and is currently undecided about her major, but is leaning toward business management. Her current goals are to get to know her cross country teammates and win the Big Sky Championship in Montana.


Her goals for track are a bit more ambitious, as she sets her sights on earning a birth to the NCAA outdoor championships and to finish in the top three nationally for indoor track, with a personal record of 2:05 in the 800 meters. Her personal record to date is 2:09.09.


Victor Nieto can be reached at [email protected].