IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Athletes like Raelyn Roberson don’t come around too often. They’re rare.
“For a coach, getting someone like Raelyn on your team is like catching lightning in a bottle,” says Dan Zapler, jumps coach for the Glenbrook South girls track and field team.
That’s not hype.
Roberson’s takeoff in the long jump is double-take worthy.
“She’s got elite speed. Elite power,” Zapler says.
Her ceiling? It’s anyone guess.
Roberson put her explosiveness and extravagant talent on display at the Class 3A Niles West Sectional on May 10. She popped an 18-8 to take first place by nearly 10 inches.
“The good news with her is that 18 feet is now her floor,” says Zapler, who also watched his star pupil leap 18-8 to win the long jump title at the CSL South Meet at Maine South on May 3.
The sophomore has become a happening at track and field meets.
And it’s not by happenstance.
In order to jump off the charts, Roberson has not only refined her technique — but she also has melded her God-given talent with hard work.
What separates her?
“It’s her dedication,” says Zapler. “She worked all year long to get better. As far as strength and conditioning goes, she showed up Day 1 in midseason form.
“Being trained by TCBoost [Sports Performance] helped a lot,” the GBN assistant adds. “Speed and power translates into longer distance. And she still can get faster and stronger.”
Roberson, who also qualified to state in the 100 meters (3rd, 12.60) and 4×200 relay (4th, 1:44.65) with Maddie Batka, Kate Snively and Taylor Ozimek, is not putting any limits on herself at this weekend’s state meet in Charleston.
“I’d like to make the finals and possibly break out a 19-footer,” Roberson says. “Being positive is the only way to be.”
Part of her newfound confidence is getting her form down pat.
“I’m been trying to fix everything that I’ve doing wrong,” says Roberson. “I just keep trying to perfect my technique.”
She will head Downstate with the fourth-best sectional mark behind Bloom Township senior Hannah Morris (19-0), Naperville North senior Saffilla Allie (18-10 ½) and Danville junior Ameia Wilson (18-10).
Morris is favored to win it, having taken runner-up honors in last year’s state meet (19-6). Wilson was 10th (18-1).
Being a freshman last spring, Roberson might’ve been a little overwhelmed by the competitive environment of a state meet.
This year? Probably not.
“She’s got the potential to be right there with the best jumpers in the state,” notes New Trier jumps coach Jamie Klotz. “She’s become the standard around here — especially after going 18-6 at the CSL South Meet. To jump that far in that sand pit at Maine South is an amazing feat.
“I remember her coming onto the scene and how quickly that she started knocking on the door. She’s really made herself into an elite long jumper,” Klotz adds. “She’s improved her strength and explosiveness. And she’s a gamer. As a coach, you die for athletes like her.”
Her rise to prominence can be traced to last year’s sectional at Loyola Academy. She won the event with a breakout jump of 17-11 ¾.
“That was a real moment for me,” Roberson says. “But now, I look at what I did there and think, ‘Oh, that was OK.’ ”
To her credit, she’s thinking in the present — and in the future — and not in the past.
“Just taking it one foot at a time,” she says, with the slightest of smiles.
Notable: Glenbrook South tallied 62 points to place sixth in the team standings at the Niles West Sectional. In addition to Raelyn Roberson and the 4×100 relay, the Titans advanced three others to this weekend’s state meet in Charleston. Junior Taylor Ozimek (2nd place) and Anne Streb (3rd place) cleared 5-2 to make the state cut in the high jump, along with Maine South’s Katie Dingle (1st) and New Trier’s Natalie Karabas (4th), while senior Emily Noone qualified in the 800 meters (4th, 2:17.88) for the fourth year in a row. … Streb, meanwhile, just missed advancing in the triple jump (3rd, 35-7). GBS’s other noteworthy efforts were turned in by Kate Snively in the 200 meters (5th, 26.75), Kate Jortberg in the 1600 (6th, 5:12.39), Kayleigh Pitterman in the 3200 (4th, 14:43.45), Alexis Rosenfeld in the shot put (6th, 31-8 ¾), Maya Goldenberg in the pole vault (7th, 8-9) and the 4×400 relay of Noone, Mary Cowhey, Lauren Hayes and Ozimek (3rd, 4:07.81). … Glenbrook South took runner-up honors in the CSL South Meet on May 3 with 127 points. New Trier had 147 points. Roberson finished with three individual championships — long jump (18-8), 100 (12.69) and 200 (26.25) — while she teamed up with Maddie Batka, Snively and Ozimek to win the 4×200 relay (1:46.22). The other winners included Jorberg in the 3200 (11:14.41) and Sydney Willits in the triple jump (35-3 ¼).