The Guilderland 4x800 relay team of senior Jenna Robinson and juniors Emily Burns, Jennifer Hoffman and Sarah Forman needed a little over nine minutes to finish second at last weekend’s New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, N.C.
That they got a chance to compete at all was a feat in itself.
After their USAir flight last Thursday was delayed twice — putting the foursome in jeopardy of missing their Friday race — it took the combined efforts of the girls’ parents to find a solution that would get the girls to their final competition of the school year.
“We got to the Albany airport about 3:30 for a 5 o’clock flight,” said Jenna Robinson’s mother, Nancy. “About 3:40, everybody got texts that the flight was delayed until 5:30. We had a connecting flight in Philadelphia, and we were still OK.”
That changed soon after.
“About 30 to 60 minutes later, they said the flight was delayed until 7. Now it became, ‘What are we going to do?’ ”
“It was a stressful hour for us,” said Jenna Robinson, who had switched from lacrosse to outdoor track this spring to prepare for running in college for Marist. “We wanted to do anything to get there.”
So did their parents, who immediately began communicating.
Nancy Robinson immediately thought of renting a van, even though it meant an overnight ride to North Carolina.
“There were no 12 or 15 vans,” said Nancy Robinson. “We had one dad who volunteered to drive, but we needed a van.”
After some quick discussion, and calculating how soon the girls would need to be on the road to get to the competition on time, the Robinsons volunteered their van.
After a quick trip to gather some pillows and blankets, the group left Albany at 7:45, with volunteer drivers.
“We’re so lucky and thankful that our parents were willing to do whatever it took to get us there,” said Jenna Robinson. “They had worked Thursday, and still volunteered to drive overnight to get us to the meet, When Sarah’s dad pulled up in the van, we all gave him a hug, we were so appreciative.”
The girls and their drivers arrived in North Carolina with little time to spare for their 11:15 a.m. heat.
After changing into their running gear and checking in at the North Carolina A&T venue, the weary quartet had to overcome another obstacle.
“We only got a chance to run for about a half-mile before they collected us for the race,” Jenna Robinson said. “We didn’t have time for our normal pre-race routing, stretching and everything.”
The Guilderland foursome got together right before the race and decided to make the best of the situation.
“It was the last race of the year, and we decided to run with all our hearts,” said Jenna Robinson. “This was something we had been training for all year.”
Family and friends had gathered back in Guilderland to watch the race over the internet. Their hearts sank when Emily Burns, running the first 800 meters, dropped to the back of the pack.
“The girls were so sore from the trip,” said Nancy Robinson. “Jenna said her calves started to cramp up. We felt so bad for them. This was something they worked so hard for, and went through so much to get there.”
Not to worry. The girls, without a coach, had mapped their own race strategy.
“The school record is 9:19, and we had hoped to come close to that or the meet record,” said Jenna Robinson. “That went out the window with the drive.”
The girls, with nothing to lose, watched as the other team got caught up in the moment.
“We were watching before the race, and the other teams seemed to be caught up in it being a big national race,” Jenna Robinson said. “They were all going out fast. We decided to take our first lap kind of easy, then go all out on the second and see what happened.
“Emily started out in last, then she passed all but top two. When she handed off to Jen, we were in third or fourth, and when Jen haded off to me, we were in second.”
Robinson’s 2:19.53 was the best time of the foursome, who finished in 9:21.16, second only to the 9:18.66 of the winning team from Pinelands, N.J.
“We all pulled through and ran better than we thought we would,” Robinson said.
Naturally, the trip home was also an experience,
“I think the flight back was worse for Jenna,” said Nancy Robinson. “They were in a smaller plane for a flight from Greensboro to Charlotte, and they had a delay because of lightning.
“The dads had driven them to the Greensboro airport aftter their race. They didn’t get a proper cool-down, they didn’t get a chance to shower, and now they’re stuck sitting in a small plane, and all they want to do is get home.”
After about 45 minutes, the group made its connecting flight in Charlotte, and arrived back in the Capital Region around 12:30 Saturday morning.
Jenna Robinson, tired as she was, took it in stride.
“I feel lucky to have teammates to go through all this with me,” she said. “I wanted to go to nationals no matter what, and to have three teammates who wanted it as bad was so great.”