Mika Robinson admits she’s thought about focusing solely on track and field.
A fleeting thought, sure, but as the junior from Billings makes her third appearance at nationals as a pole vaulter, she knows she’s still a two-sport athlete at heart.
“I like basketball too much,” said Robinson, who served as a reserve guard for the Saints this past season. “I wouldn’t like to give that up. Even though track is so fun, too.”
Robinson is part of Saints contingent sending 25 athletes to Gulf Shores, Alabama -- the site of the 2017 NAIA National Track and Field Championships. Her 12 foot, 1 1/2 inch clearance in the pole vault in Great Falls punched her ticket to her second outdoor national championship.
And she did with it a one-day transition from basketball season to track season.
The Saints’ basketball season ended on a Tuesday in Butte on Feb. 28. By that Thursday, Robinson was doing her best to keep pace with the rest of the track team during running workouts -- an especially difficult change of pace considering many of her teammates have been in “track shape” since November, and throughout the indoor season that coincides with the hoops season.
“It took a couple of weeks before I felt like I was in decent shape,” Robinson said. “I was in rusty shape. I was confident and my legs were strong enough, but it took time.”
Basketball calls for a lot of start-and-stop movement, a change of pace as teams move from offense and defense; track brings straight-forward bursts, depending on the event. Not much carries over between the two, she said.
“I think it’s just the hard work that translates between the two sports,” Robinson said. “You have to put in the work if you want to see any results.”
Robinson saw her family working hard while she was young, which sparked an interest in pole vault after growing up in a household that cultivated love for basketball.
“It was a family game all my siblings and parents played,” Robinson said.
Robinson’s older brother, Sean, introduced her to pole vault. As a 10-year-old, she marveled as Sean continued to improve in the sport, going on to vault for the University of Montana for one year. Robinson pole vaulted “as much as I could,” with friends equipping her with small poles to get her rhythm down at a young age.
Robinson’s other siblings also paved the way for college athletics, with her brother David playing soccer at University of Mary. Sister Brianna recently graduated from the Colorado School of Mines, where she also competed collegiately.
Saints coach Rachelle Sayers recruited and offered a scholarship for Robinson to play basketball at Carroll, but once track coach Harry Clark caught wind of Robinson’s senior season, he inquired about picking up a second college sport.
Sayers supported the idea of sending Robinson to the track, showcasing the promise by allowing the redshirt sophomore to compete at indoor nationals during basketball season a little over a year ago.
“She was really encouraging about it,” Robinson said. “It’s going to be a lot of hard work and long seasons. We had to lay out schedules. And then also some compromising and when I’m practicing and when I’m training.”
This season at Carroll, Robinson and Terah Cundith have both qualified for nationals, often pushing each other through meets as other Frontier programs lack depth in their track and field programs. It’s not the first time the two have gone at it, either. Cundith and Robinson meet in high school a few times, as the younger Robinson vaulted for Billings West and Cundith suited up for the Helena High Bengals.
“It’s been awesome competing against Terah,” Robinson said.
Robinson found a groove in Great Falls a few weeks ago, hitting a lifetime personal record of 12-1 1/2, a few inches better than her previous top mark of 11-9 3/4. To do that again on Thursday in Alabama, she’ll have to once again find the right mixture of rhythm and explosiveness.
“I definitely think I can go higher, and that’s the plan,” Robinson said.
Robinson has got to this point of her college career with the support of her family. And in Alabama, she’ll have their support once again. Her parents, Joe and Judy, will be there with her siblings and cousin as Robinson looks to make a mark for the Saints.