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High School Track: Walker following family footsteps




Robert Walker always wondered why anyone would want to run competitively.

As a youth baseball player in Stafford County, he viewed running as a form of punishment.

“I was one of those people that asked, ‘Why would anyone want to put themselves through that type of pain voluntarily?’” Walker said. “It just wasn’t something I was into.”

Walker eventually saw his sister, Katherine, win a Group AAA state title for Brooke Point High School in the 3,200 meters in 2009.

She went on to capture a national championship in the 5,000 and now competes for the University of Virginia.

The entire Walker family was motivated by her success.

Older brother Christopher began participating in triathlons. Her father, Randy, always ran as a Marine, but began enjoying it more.

And Robert decided to follow in his sister’s footsteps at Brooke Point.

He’s a sophomore standout distance runner for the Black–Hawks as they began their spring season.

“Katherine’s story inspired him because he saw how she set goals and worked so, so hard to get where she is,” said their mother, Ann Walker. “It was inspirational for all of us. And Robert was like ‘I want to do that.’”

He’s off to a strong start. Robert admits he was somewhat taken aback as a freshman in the ultracompetitive Commonwealth District.

But he received a confidence boost in cross country this past fall.

Robert placed 12th in the district and went on to finish 15th in the Northwest Region.

By placing in the top 15 in the region, he became the third Brooke Point runner in school history to qualify for the state meet.

Robert initially thought he was 16th in the region, so he didn’t know how to react when told of the state berth.

“The best word to describe the feeling is ‘unreal,’” Robert said. “It was a huge surprise, but it’s definitely something I would like to get used to.”

Katherine Walker hasn’t been the only person to provide motivation for Robert.

He has also been pushed by the other distance runners in the district.

Albemarle annually boasts a strong group. Colonial Forge features Division I recruits Brian O’Loughlin (Virginia Tech) and David Pennesi (William & Mary).

There’s also Alabama recruit Nic Wolfe at Mountain View. All of the above are seniors.

“My freshman year, I put them all on a pedestal,” Robert said. “Now I’m running closer to them. It’s really a new experience for me.”

Brooke Point distance coach Ryan Bayne said it’s an early step in Robert’s progression.

Bayne, who coached at the University of Mary Washington for six years, said Robert is a hard worker who gets the most out of his ability.

However, he added that Robert has plenty of room to grow.

“I look at it as a four-year plan,” Bayne said. “Every year we’re focusing on something different. So when he gets to college, he’ll be at a high level.”

Early this season, Robert, who excels in the 3,200, will focus on the 800 and 1,600 so he can become faster.

He said the 3,200 may be one race in which he can compete with his sister.

But as the distances increase, he knows he doesn’t stand much of a chance.

“It’s a sibling rivalry, but it’s a friendly one,” Robert said. “She’s been a huge role model in every aspect of my life. I couldn’t ask for a better sister.”

Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526