Athlete Feature 45 - Ian Robinson - USA Athletics Scholarships

Athlete Feature 45 – Ian Robinson

Ian Robinson

This week we spoke to Preston athlete and former Iowa State Cyclone, Ian Robinson (Number 51 above). The 28.04 10,000m man shares his experience of being on an NCAA championship winning team alongside future British Olympians Jon Brown and John Nuttall. 

tbUSA – From our research it appears that you were slightly older than typical undergraduate students when you began at Iowa State (early twenties). What were you doing between finishing high school and heading to the US?

IR – I left school at age 17 and worked in a printing factory near Lancaster.  When I wasn’t injured I ran on and off for my local clubs Lancaster and Morecambe/Preston Harriers.  At the age of 19 I went back to school and retook my exams so I could move to the USA and compete in the collegiate system.  I was bored in England and wanted to try something else.

tbUSA – What made you choose Iowa State? Would we be correct in assuming that you wanted to follow in the footsteps of fellow Preston athlete and 1989 NCAA Cross Country champion; John Nuttall?

IR –  John Nuttall and I both belong to Preston Harriers.  During the summers of 1989/90 he would come home and I would ask him questions about his Iowa State experience.  That’s how I got talking to Bill Bergan, the Iowa state Coach, and things just progressed from there.  I wasn’t recruited by any other University and I think Coach Bergan wouldn’t have invited me without the input from John Nuttall and  Jon Brown.  So I owe a lot to their positive feedback.

tbUSA – What degree did you obtain at Iowa State? Have you made use of it at all since graduating?

IR –  I graduated with a degree in Sociology and quickly realized one can’t make a living in that field.  Today I work for Edward Jones Investments.  I’ve been a Financial Advisor for a little over 10 years now.

tbUSA – Iowa State were hugely successful as a team during your time, winning numerous Conference titles and also a National Championship.  What was it like being part of such an elite group?

IR – The group was extremely competitive during training.  My first semester I shared a house with Spencer Duvall, Jon Brown, Daryl Smith and John Nuttall.  At first I felt quite intimidated but during my second semester I began to feel at ease with my surroundings.  I remember John Nuttall had a friendly competitive rivalry with Jonah Koech and Jon Brown was improving rapidly and wanted to challenge them both.  I remember the interval sessions were intense. You either sink or swim with that group.  Most of us improved rapidly, including myself.  10/1000m with 90 secs recovery was a typical x/c workout.   Just finishing the session without being dropped, was a major accomplishment.  In the fall of 1991 we had a group consisting of Jon Brown, Jonah Koech, Gary Lough, Paul Patrick (28 min 10k guy), Sean Mulheron and myself.  I do believe we should have beaten Arkansas that year in Arizona.  However, Arkansas ran superb and everyone on our team ran lousy. It wasn’t to be.

It wasn’t until 1994 that we built another team that could challenge again for another x/c title. Coach Bergan had an uncanny knack of attracting the right mix of athletes.  That team consisted of 5 guys who could run sub 14 mins for 5k at the time. Steve Brooks, John Kihonge, Dmitry Drozdov, Corey Ihmels and myself.  With the right environment, I do believe all of us could have ran a 13.30 for 5k or quicker after college.  The group was very talented.

tbUSA – Following on from the 1989 Championship winning team, the ISU men came close several times; 2nd in 1990 & 1991, and 3rd in 1993. Can you describe the experience of leading the Cyclones to the top of the podium again in your final collegiate cross country race in 1994?                                       

IR – I had mixed feeling about that race, winning the team title was exhilarating but I also ran my worst race of the year.  In the weeks leading up to the race I had found another level in training and thought I had a ‘shot’ at winning it.  During the first 100 yards I strained a calf muscle and as a result I ran the whole race in fear I’d have to drop out and let the team down.  Looking back today,  I feel proud we won.  Being part of a team that won an NCAA championship is and was great. Winning didn’t come as a surprise though, we simply believed we had the best team. 

tbUSA – Times wise, it appears your best result of a 28.04 10,000m in 1996 came a year after completing your eligibility. What was your training set up at this time? Were you running professionally?  

IR – After graduating in 1995 I moved to Phoenix Arizona with the intent of trying to qualify for the 1996 Olympics.  In that period I started running 90-100 miles per week and my fitness took another step forward.  I had an equipment contract with Mizuno but with no monthly stipend.  In AZ I worked at a local hotel as mini bar attendant to pay the bills and ran before and after my 6 hour shift.  My wife supported my running goals and she basically paid for everything.

tbUSA – How would you rate your overall US college experience?  Almost 20 years on from graduating, what are the lasting memories or stories you can recall?

IR-Iowa State was fantastic.  Competing was great too.  I would encourage any foreign athlete to try it for at least a couple of years.  You have nothing to lose.  The competition is fierce and if you pick the right University, any athlete will make a huge amount of progress.  There are so many fast races,  Mt Sac relays and Stanford come to mind.

Stories-We’ll I remember fighting with room-mates, drinking too much and missing too many classes because I was hungover.  One teammate liked to walk in the buff too while guests were over. He was a big hit with the girls and liked to throw an empty glass into the fireplace after downing a vodka.  Lots of fun.

tbUSA – When did your competitive running days begin to wind down? Did you remain in the US after this? 

IR –My days as a runner ended quite abruptly.  In an effort to make the Olympic team in 1996 I trained through an achilles injury and never really recovered from it .  The achilles still irritates me today, 17 years on.

Yes, I did remain in the USA. I married a lady from Iowa and we reside in Cedar Rapids.

tbUSA Whilst the recruiting procedures may have seen changes since you graduated with the use of the internet, the basic premise of athletes receiving scholarships remain the same. What advice would you offer to athletes who are currently considering the US collegiate system?

IR – Advice, I would say you have to pick the right University.  ISU remains a solid program, but there are other great schools too such as Oregon, Wisconsin, Oklahoma State, and Northern Arizona too.  I don’t think  you can go wrong with any of the above institutions.

I had the goal of trying it out for a year and then leaving if it didn’t work out.  This isn’t the Army where bailing isn’t an options.  Give it a try and you just might end up there for 4-5 years like I did.

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