(Featured Image): Roberts soars during the triple jump at the NCAA outdoor championships on May 28 in Geneva, Ohio. Shane Pabon|Courtesy
In May 2022 in Geneva, Ohio, senior jumper Geni Roberts, on the Virginia Wesleyan Men’s Track and Field team competed at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Nationals. Roberts qualified to compete in the Men’s Triple Jump event, where he ended up jumping a personal best and new school record of 15.16m. His jump helped him claim second place and a National Runner-Up title.
Roberts described the atmosphere when entering the NCAA competition, explaining how it is hectic right when going into the complex. He shared the intimidating image of hundreds of athletes warming up on the track, preparing for the event they’ve trained months for. “Hundreds of teams are in the stadium because their whole team qualified, making it really intense because everyone on that track is good. All of those athletes are supposed to be competing at the higher level,” Roberts said.
Coach Cameia Alexander joined the Marlins Track and Field team in 2020 and was promoted to the Director of Men’s and Women’s Track and Field in 2021. She shared her thoughts on Roberts.“Geni has stepped up a lot since when I first got here his sophomore year,” Alexander said. “He is really big on him not being the only one going to nationals this year.”
The multiple hours of training sessions that go into preparing for NCAA Nationals can be overwhelming and exhausting for an athlete; however, Roberts expressed that “the biggest struggle when it comes to Nationals is the mental piece. You can’t go into the competition trying to be perfect because everybody else on that track is nice, which means they’re the best in all of the Division III Track and Field programs.”
Roberts stated that he wishes his team could travel with him to Nationals to share that experience and to have support from his teammates just like the other teams competing do.
Alexander gave her perspective as a coach at Nationals regarding the pressure the competition can hold over an athlete and how intimidating it can be when going in as a solo athlete. “It is not the same energy going to Nationals by yourself compared to teams that have 15 to 20 teammates competing,” Alexander said.
Another senior on the Track and Field team, Wesley Burton, shared admiration for his team by giving some insight on the team culture. “The team is full of fun people that work really hard and will joke with each other but are always locked in,” Burton said. “Geni as a leader is super positive, is extremely talented, and wants everyone to learn so he is naturally someone that the team already looks up to.”
As one of the few seniors on the Track and Field team, Roberts falls into a leadership role within the group as Alexander explains, “this year he is taking a really big leap of leadership with the team, encouraging the guys and the girls to do what they’re supposed to do: be the best you can be in the classroom and out of the classroom.”
Roberts has been described as a soft-spoken person, but has grown comfortable with his team and confident enough with his skills to speak up more this year to encourage his teammates, pushing them to be their best selves. Alexander said, “I’ve appreciated that so much from him this year and I am looking forward to seeing how well he can help lead the team this year.”
The team continues to encourage Roberts on the day-to-day and hold him accountable by making sure he is doing what he is supposed to do and “being where he needs to be because winning is not easy for him, he needs to work hard and still needs to feel that support from the team as well,” Alexander said.
Burton compares the difference in Track and Field and points out that other sports get to have the opportunity for their entire team to travel with them regardless if all athletes are competing. The whole team enjoys to cheer their teammates on but can only do so much when not in the competition arena. “Geni is basically going out there by himself sometimes with two other teammates so it is a lot harder to feel that support from far away,” Burton said.
Roberts is looking to continue his academic career at a graduate school to further his studies in either Sports Management or a Business program. He will enter the transfer portal in December to continue his jumping career, hopefully to find a University that meets his academic and athletic requirements. Roberts aspires to be an entrepreneur and create his own brand.