Reynolds' career is right on track
The record-setting 18-year-old sprinter hopes to be in the Olympics before long
Robin Reynolds is the most decorated track and field athlete in Florida high school history. In a state that has produced no shortage of track and field stars, including Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross and the nation's current No. 1 sprinter, Central Florida freshman Octavious Freeman, that's quite a distinction.
Coming into her senior season, the 18-year-old Miami Jackson star had no shortage of ambitious goals:
Reynolds' Record Haul
Robin Reynolds finished her prep career with 14 individual state titles, the most in Florida high school history. Here's a breakdown of her 14 championships.
1. Finish career with the most individual state titles in Florida history.
Check this off the list. By winning three events at the Class 2A state meet, Reynolds finished with 14 gold medals in four years. The prior record-holder had earned 13 state titles in six years.
"It was a remarkable feeling," Reynolds said. "I've been working real hard and trying to do it, and to see it come true at the end of the year was a great feeling. It was like icing on the cake."
2. Run a sub-53 in the 400.
Prior to the regional and state meets, Reynolds had been running high-53s in the 400 and said it "wasn't sitting well" with her.
"I want to leave high school as one of those runners who went 52," she said. "Everybody remembers, 'Oh, she was a great athlete,' but I'll go down as a legend with Sanya [Richards-Ross] as someone who ran a sub-53. She's one of my mentors, and for me to be able to be out there with her like that, sub-53 in high school, that'd be awesome."
Reynolds wound up going sub-53 in both the region and state meets. Awesome.
3. Set the state record in the 400.
This was one of Reynolds' loftier goals. The record belongs to Richards-Ross, who set the mark of 52.51 as a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Reynolds came incredibly close, however, running a 52.59 in the 400 finals en route to a gold medal.
4. Hit 20 feet in the long jump.
Here's what you need to know about Reynolds as an athlete: Over the years, she's participated in track, cross country, basketball, volleyball and tennis for Jackson High. She can do it all. In a way, then, it shouldn't come as a surprise that her athleticism would translate to field events like the long jump.
But Reynolds wasn't just successful in the long jump. She won the event all four years at state and this year jumped 20 feet, 6.25 inches, nearly four inches better than the state mark. Success is one thing. The fact she actually set the state record in an event that for her is something of an afterthought -- she readily admits it's not her focus and she doesn't have proper technique -- is pretty astounding.
5. Make the Olympic trials*
This one has a big asterisk attached to it because even if Reynolds qualified for June's USA Track and Field Olympic Team Trials in Eugene, Ore. -- a big "if," though she's one of the few high schoolers with a legitimate shot -- it might not be in her best interest to attend. In order to go, she'd need to skip the USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships ("junior nationals"), and would therefore forfeit a chance to compete at the IAAF World Junior Championships ("world juniors") in Barcelona this summer.
Even if Reynolds made the trials, she would be a long shot to make the U.S. team that travels to London, so for the sake of her development it probably makes a lot more sense to stick to juniors this time around. Reynolds is prepared to wait another four years for Olympic glory. She has four years to improve at the University of Florida, where she'll head this summer on a full scholarship.
Still, the Olympics are the ultimate goal. Have been since Day 1, says Carl Cunningham, her stepfather and coach.
"She loved the competitive edge of the Olympics," he said. "She wants to go to Olympics at least twice."
"It's an honor to be a part of the USA team," Reynolds added. "It's such a great tradition to be a part of that, and it's an honor to represent the United States and wear that across your chest. I wouldn't be disappointed [if I missed trials], because I have other goals. If it doesn't come this year, I'll be there the next one for sure."
Depending on how you look at it, then, Reynolds hit three of her four -- or five -- main goals this year. She achieved the most important ones, while the areas in which she fell short will continue to serve as motivation.
Success is nothing new to Reynolds. She set her first national age group record as a 10-year-old. In fact, Reynolds' biggest challenge over the years has been staying focused on a sport she's dominated for more than half of her life -- keeping the love, as she put it.
"After a while it becomes a job and it can be tiring," she said. "Everybody is expecting you to perform and do this and that. People always having something to say."
When she needs to rekindle her love for the sport, she'll talk to her longtime club coach, Jesse Holt of the Miami Northwest Express, who will remind her of some of her past successes or tell her stories about his own experiences. Holt, a former track star and professional football player, has coached Olympians Tiffany Ross-Williams and Bershawn "Batman" Jackson. Years ago, Holt printed out a poem for Reynolds (which she has since memorized) that implores the reader not to quit, no matter the struggles.
"You know, it's like a refresher," Reynolds said. "It gets me to wake back up and say, 'OK, Robin, you're stronger than that.'"
If that doesn't work, she thinks about her biggest supporter and motivator: her mother, Robbie Cunningham.
"I always want to make Mom proud of me," Reynolds said. "I'm doing it for my mama."
So while we might not see Reynolds in London this summer, there's a good chance we'll see her in 2016.
Lucas O'Neill covers high school sports for ESPNHS. Follow him on Twitter @LucasESPN or email him at Lucas.ONeill@espn.com.
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