Nov. 24, 2011
By Jon Cooper
– Shawn Roberts could have played football or basketball.
His family is represented in both sports, as his dad played college football, he has a cousin (Reggie Jones) who’s won a Super Bowl ring, and his brother, Lee, won a D-II National Championship in college hoops (University of Findlay) and plays pro ball internationally.
But running is big, too.
His dad runs marathons having given up the gridiron for the military, while his mom competed in track in college.
The most important run his mother may have ever made, however, came when Shawn was in seventh grade, when she basically ran him off football forever.
“I went out for the football team and my mom had an argument with the football coach,” recalled the junior from Centerville, Ohio. “She told me I wasn’t allowed to play football anymore. She put me on the cross country team.
“I ran cross country that season, really to stay in shape for basketball,” he continued. “So I just ran cross country and I haven’t stopped since then.”
He ran his way to Georgia Tech and is helping Georgia Tech make its run toward the top in track and cross country. The Yellow Jackets finished their 2011 season ninth at the ACC Championships, and sixth in the South Regional, the latter the best finish for the school in a decade.
“I hope that we just keep getting better, start to climb the ladder of the ACC,” said head coach Alan Drosky. “We had a good step at the regional, finishing sixth, the best that we’ve been since 2001, when we were fourth. But the conference still is a heck of a challenge, from where you can finish ninth at the conference meet and then, two weeks later you’re sixth in the South region. It’s a tough conference. It keeps us working hard. We’ve got a good foundation to move forward.”
Roberts is a big part of that foundation. It’s been tough making the adjustment, from track, where he runs 800- and 1,500-meters.
“I am very happy with both his performance and his progression,” said Drosky. “Shawn is an outstanding middle-distance runner in track. For Shawn, to be able to step up to the cross country distances and compete as well as he did, I was very pleased and not just with the level that he reached but the consistency that he had. His whole season was very good. I think both of those are an indication of great things to come for Shawn and come track season as well.”
Roberts was third among Tech runners in four of the cross country team’s fall races and was second in the other two. The two races in which he finished second were cornerstone races for the squad. The first was Oct. 15 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., at the Crimson Classic, an event won by the Jackets. The other was in the NCAA South Region Championships, coincidentally on the same course.
Those two races are proof positive that Georgia Tech is making strides in cross country.
“I think people are noticing now that we’re coming up,” Roberts said. “I’m not going to say that we’re going to be contenders next year, but we’re definitely slowly working our way up there. If you compare our team three years ago to our team now, any team in the ACC will tell you there’s a HUGE difference. We’re working our way up there for sure. Slowly, but we’re going to make it there.”
With senior Patrick Barron and Roberts returning, as well as solid performers Obiandu Igwe and Niall Longobardi coming back, and a talented freshman class, only one of which ran last fall, there’s a lot to look forward to.
The next step will be track, which is a valuable stepping stone for most of the team, helping them build toward next fall.
Amidst all this looking ahead, Roberts is not looking back to what might have been had he pursued other sports.
He hasn’t looked back since mom put her foot down that day in seventh grade.
“I don’t miss football but I played basketball through high school and I definitely miss playing basketball. That’s always fun for me,” he said. “I really started liking running. There’s something about running that connects with me.”
Somehow, mom always knows.