By Kent Larsen
Stanford Runner Working Back from Mission Towards Olympics
PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA -- Distance runner Grant Robison built a reputation in
Oregon as one of the best runners in the state. But after red-shirting a
year at Stanford University, Robison took two years off to serve an LDS
mission to South Africa. Now, after returning last year, Robison is back
running, placing seventh in the 5,000 meters at the recent NCAA meet in
Eugene, Oregon and 13th in the 5,000 meters at the U.S. Outdoor Track and
Field Championships. But Robison says he isn't back in shape yet.
While on his mission, Robison says he managed to run maybe 20 times. Instead
he got training of a different type. "I feel like I grew up a lot when I was
over there," Robison said. "I came back with a grasp for what real life is
about. I'm more conscious of simple things." Robison worked in four
different locations in South Africa, including both black townships and
among the white Afrikaners.
He tells of meeting one many fleeing a life of crime and gangs in Cape Town,
"He expressed an interest in turning his life around. He didn't have any
direction," Robison said. "We shared with him the six messages of the church
and he really embraced it. He felt like that's what he needed to help put
his past behind him." Robison says he still keeps in touch with the man, who
is saving money to get married.
Robison returned last summer from South Africa, and began running his first
year of athletic eligibility, quickly becoming the No. 2 or 3 runner on
Stanford's team, which was pursuing a national championship. But his
two-year-long mission caught up with him in the Fall and he developed a
stress fracture in the femur bone, in the upper leg. "If you don't run, your
bones get soft because they aren't used to the pounding," Robison explained.
After using the winter recuperate, Robison began to run again. At the
Pac-10 meet, he placed third in the 1,500 meters, recording a record time of
3 minutes, 44.13 seconds. And then he finished near the top at the NCAA meet
and the US Outdoor Track and Fieeld Championships. "I'm sort of satisfied,
but I'm not elated with my performances," he said. "I was happy to be there
in those big meets, but I didn't run super well. I was surprised how quickly
I came back for cross country, but it was probably a little too quick."
His high school coach, Vic Downs, says that Robison's high expectations of
his performance go back to high school, where he won five state titles, "He
loves to compete," said Vic Downs. "He didn't always like training that
much, but on race day he did some special things. He has a grittiness and a
hard-core attitude. He wants to win every race." Downs said that Robison ran
in spite of allergies, but that he never let the allergies keep him from
performing, "Every time we went to Eugene for the state meet, he suffered
from allergies like crazy. He
was sniffing like crazy," Downs said.
While the mission evidently didn't change his competitive nature, Robison
has changed in other ways. "I feel like I grew up a lot when I was over
there," Robison said. "I came back with a grasp for what real life is about.
I'm more conscious of simple things." Before his mission Robison thought he
would pursue pre-med studies, but now he has switched to African Studies and
thinks he will become a teacher. "Or maybe I'll go back to Africa and teach
English or math," he said. He learned some Zulu on his mission, and is
learning Swahili at Stanford.
But until graduation, Robison has three more years of athletic eligibility,
and then, in 2004, the Olympic Games in Athens will be held, just after
graduation. "I have no idea if I have what it takes to cut it on the
international scene, but when Athens rolls around, I should be right at my
prime," he said.
Robison back in stride after two years of religion, service
Portland OR Oregonian 5Jul01 S2
By Doug Binder: The Oregonian Staff