She’s at the starting line, and a three-mile trail awaits her. It comforts her to know that Mamaw and Papaw are in the stands cheering her on. The race begins, and she is gaining a steady pace, keeping up with the other girls. Her breathing evens, and she sets a rhythm with her feet: left, right, left, right…
As she approaches the halfway mark, and she knows Dad will be there with his encouraging words, “You’ve got to go! You’ve got to go!” She pushes even harder to catch up with the girls in front of her.
Finally, she is in the home stretch, and she uses all the power in her legs to pass her opponents. She collapses into Mom’s arms as she crosses the finish line. There is nothing left. She left it all on the trail. No regrets.
This is what a typical cross country meet looks like for Brooke Robinson, an eighth grader at Clarkdale Attendance Center.
Just 13, Brooke has already broken records and successfully competed on a state level in both track and cross country. Brooke holds the girls’ 5k record at Clarkdale Attendance Center. She holds the second place title in 2A state girls’ cross country. She finished the 5k run in 20 minutes and 51 seconds, just 4 seconds behind the first place winner. At the state level in track, Brooke finished third overall in the 3,200-meter run and sixth overall in the 1,600-meter run. She placed first overall in the State Games of Mississippi Boo Run with a pace of 6:28 per mile.
Brooke started running when her older brothers, Taylor and Tylor, began running. She also plays soccer at Clarkdale.
“She’s played soccer every since she could kick a ball,” her mom, Brandy Robinson, said. “When her brothers started running in eighth grade, she’s run with them ever since.”
Her first breakthrough was a midnight mile-run at Bonita Lakes Park. She was only in third or fourth grade, and she placed first overall. It was then that she began participating in numerous fun runs and moonlight runs in the local area.
“She would just come out and run as a fourth and fifth grader,” Clarkdale cross country coach Brent Manasco said. “She would keep up with them in practice. We knew she was something special then.”
The emerging cross country star does not have a second to spare during the week. After school, she has cross country and soccer practice. There are also cross country meets and soccer games throughout the week and on weekends. And she’s a coach’s dream – an A student with a work ethic.
“This whole week has been non-stop,” Brooke said with a smile. “I don’t plan on stopping.”
Along with her excellent performance on the track, soccer field, and in the classroom, Brooke is a leader. She encourages her teammates and perks them up when they seem tired.
“At meets, I’ll hear people saying ‘go Clarkdale’ and ‘go Brooke’ and I don’t even know them,” Brooke said. “I’ll get past the finish line and people will tell me ‘good job Brooke.’ I don’t even know them or anything.”
Despite her talent, Brooke still gets nervous before runs or games. As a game day ritual, she always eats peanut butter and jelly Smucker’s Uncrustables right before a game or a race and pasta for dinner the night before. Five and 13 are her lucky numbers. Thirteen is her soccer jersey number, and 5 is a number that has been in the Robinson family since her grandfather’s and father’s racing days at Whynot Motorsports Park.
“We always have to come up with a pick-me-up song before she gets ready to run,” Clarkdale assistant cross country coach Carol Brookins said. “She gets nervous, so we have to come up with a little song and dance to get her going.”
Of his 11-year coaching career at Clarkdale Attendance Center, Brent Manasco says the kids are the most memorable. He says Brooke is one of the most talented kids he has ever coached.
“The thing that’s impressed me the most about her is not her ability or work ethic,” Manasco said. “It’s her humility.”
Brooke says her support system of family, coaches, and teammates keeps her going.
“Hopefully, we have taught them about more than running, but about life. Long distance running is a lot like life,” Manasco said.
“Our team is family. Brooke is family,” Brookins said.
Tears welled in Mrs. Robinson’s eyes as she thought of her daughter’s young career.
“Just watching her give it her all. She’ll come across the finish line and collapse in my arms,” she said. “I’m always waiting for her at the finish line.”
Read the final published article in the Meridian Star.