It was a normal meet day for track star Raelyn Roberson. She warmed up with her fellow long jumpers, made sure to stay hydrated and listened to the same playlist that she does before every meet (usually Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar) while she waited for her turn to long jump. However, on Feb. 28, Roberson’s jump was nothing but normal, because she beat a South fieldhouse record, jumping 19 feet and 7.5 inches.
Roberson was gifted with some natural ability, but her strong work ethic sets her apart from other track athletes, according to Dan Zapler, girls’ track head coach. Roberson said that her commitment to her sport extends so far that she never stops working for it.
“I never really stop training,” Roberson said. “In the past four years I’ve been doing track, the longest break I’ve taken was three weeks. Even when people think it’s my offseason, I’m still training to get better.”
With so much success already in three years at South, Zapler hopes that Roberson will be able to find joy in her senior season with the track team. Expectations are sky high for Roberson, but finding enjoyment in her final year of high school track is Zapler’s ultimate hope.
“I hope she can enjoy every single day, every practice, every meet, knowing that she’s never going to get to do that practice, that meet again,” Zapler said. “Hopefully she enjoys the process of the season.”
However, Zapler also sees some material goals for Roberson as her season gets underway. Roberson’s talent provides her with a real opportunity to reach heights rarely ascended to in the history of GBS girls’ track.
“She’s one of the people who could be a state champion,” Zapler said. “That would put her in a rare situation.”
One of Roberson’s trademarks, according to Zapler, is her unwillingness to display her emotions during a meet. Roberson said her stoic nature can upset some of her opponents because they’re never sure what is going through her mind at any given time.
“You can’t really tell what I’m thinking,” Roberson said. “I have the same face the whole time. I think it’s kind of frustrating for some people because they don’t know how I’m doing but I do that just so I don’t get in my own head when I’m competing.”
Roberson describes herself as resilient because of the hardship that she’s faced to get to where she is. Holding on to mental fortitude has been one of the biggest barriers she has had to face in her career, according to Zapler.
“I’ve gone through a lot and everything I go through I come back stronger and bounce back,” Roberson said.
Losing Roberson will have a big impact on the team, according to Sydney Willits, junior track athlete, who competes in the same events as Roberson. Roberson’s work ethic and success has pushed Willits to work hard as well.
“[When Roberson graduates] we will definitely lose a great team leader and supporter,” Willits said. “She is such a good example and influence on everyone.”
Roberson, who has only been an athlete since she was in 7th grade, has treasured the time she’s spent in the girls’ track program at GBS and hopes that her legacy will still be prevalent among the underclassmen taking over the program after her graduation. Zapler knows that Roberson’s legacy is secure, from track to who she is as a person.
“[I hope] that she knows just how many people, whether they said it or not, looked up to her,” Zapler said.