KY WAS BORN four years after Jamie, a volleyball and basketball star who sometimes taunted Ky by parading in front of him in her Queensland gear when he failed to make the state’s teams. Ky was a name that first came to Mark in a dream. It won out over Tristan, which his mother favored.
As his training under Curran and McAfee ramped up, Ky saw some success as he became more consistent. Though he didn’t make any Queensland teams in 2017, Ky showed potential “even though he was not the most dedicated to training and would miss assigned runs all the time,” Curran said.
The coaches invited him to train with some older college-level runners on weekends and picked him up at 5:30 a.m. for the hour drive to Gold Coast to train with their group.
“I was basically thrown in there and told, ‘Hang on,’” Robinson said. “I’d basically be at the back of the pack every single workout, just trying to survive as long as I could. But by the end of that year, I was starting to win races.”
A turning point came on one of the most notorious courses in a country known for its brutal cross country. After repeatedly finishing one spot from berths in national championship races, Robinson finally advanced to his first under-18 nationals in cross country, at Maleny, a golf course with a hill that seems to ascend forever, and then get even steeper.
Robinson entered a minor race two weeks before nationals to get a feel for the course and was “smoked by random people,” he said. It was humbling and a huge blow to his newfound confidence.
His coaches advised a different approach for the championship: walk.
“It’s so steep, you won’t be losing that much time,” Ky was told. “Then sprint the downhill. You’ll gain so much time. They’ll all be exhausted.”
Robinson stuck to the plan even as runners passed him up the hill. But on the downhill, Robinson zoomed past so many he found himself finishing as the third Australian. His parents, watching from the hillside, were left in awe. Robinson went from never making the national meet to coming in the top three in one year.
“We told you that you had talent,” the coaches reminded him. Finally, Ky was able to see it too.
Brisbane native Patrick Thygesen, now a senior runner at Providence, was among Ky’s rivals. Thygesen said he probably raced Robinson as many as 20 times a year.
“At 15 or 16, I was better than him, I trained better than him,” Thygesen said. “But even then, he didn’t back down…