WHAT’S YOUR STORY: Athlete changes tracks with ease

Zach Mills

Four years ago, if you asked Daniel Roberts what sport he wanted to play in college, his answer most likely would have been, “Basketball!”

He probably would not have said he’d be a collegiate scholarship athlete in a sport he’d never participated in.

The Monticello sophomore played basketball until his sophomore year of high school.

It was during one of his high school basketball practices that Roberts’ athletic endeavors suddenly switched courses.

He ran a one-mile fitness test and when he told his father of his time later that night, he was encouraged to run in a local race.

Roberts did a lot better than he thought he would in the race, placing seventh out of about 50 competitors. After that, his passion switched from basketball to track and cross country.

Unfortunately, Roberts’s high school didn’t have a track team. But he was determined that running was his new passion. So he found a way over the hurdle in his path.

“I had to kind of do it all on my own,” Roberts said.

Roberts enlisted the help of Steven Daffron, a middle- aged and well respected member of his community, who was also a runner.

“He always kept me motivated,” Roberts said.

Daffron ran with Roberts some days, and on the days he couldn’t, he made a program for Roberts to follow.

Daffron eventually helped Roberts motivate himself to become collegiate runner material.

During Roberts’s junior and senior years in high school, Western track and cross country coach Curtiss Long had been in the area recruiting several runners from nearby high schools.

Roberts’ success as a runner quickly caught Long’s attention, and Roberts signed a scholarship with Western during his senior year of high school. He is currently in his second season as a collegiate runner.

This season Roberts placed eighth in the conference and made the all conference team in cross country for 2002.

But despite Roberts’ success, he continues to remember how hard he worked, as well as those who were in his corner coaching him.

Roberts said his parents are the key contributor to his success.

“My parents ended up taking me to all the meets,” he said. “They’ve always been the motivational factor when I didn’t feel like running.”

Roberts joked that in high school his mother would continually ask him, “Have you gone and done your workout yet?”

Although Roberts’ parents pushed him to become a strong runner, they also pushed him to become a strong student. And he listened. Roberts is currently sporting a 3.8 cumulative GPA at Western. He is pursuing a degree in mathematics with an emphasis on secondary education and wants to teach grades eight through 12.

Roberts currently has no big plans of pursuing a professional career as a runner.

“As of right now, I doubt it,” he said. “I’m decent, but there’s a whole other level out there. Maybe if all this hard work pays off, that’s the route I’ll take. But until then, I’ll stick with teaching.”

Each week, Zach picks a random person from the student directory and calls them to ask, “What’s Your Story?” His series runs every Tuesday. Zach can be reached at [email protected]