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Jordan Roberts is considered a threat in multiple sports at Zephyrhills, just like his older brother Jamal.
Unlike his brother, it took Roberts a little longer to embrace any sport other than his first love, basketball. But when he did, his natural ability burst through pretty quickly.
“I’m really happy that I made that decision,” the junior said. “Playing other sports has made me better at (basketball and football), too. Going out and trying other sports is opening a lot of doors.”
The basketball team has gone a combined 7-67 in Roberts’ three seasons, and an individual sport like track is a more fitting venue to expose his talent.
Jamal, considered one of the fastest sprinters on the North Suncoast, ran the 100 meters in 11.14 seconds and the 200 in 22.43 at the 2010 Steinbrenner Invitational at USF. Jordan won last season's Class 3A, District 6 title in the 100 with a personal-best 10.87 seconds — and for good measure competed in and won the high jump with a leap of 6 feet, 4 inches.
This season, running the 200 more regularly for the first time, Jordan again has clocked 22.43, this time at the Gulf Chasco Invitational — which would have beaten last year’s district champion time by .26 of a second.
Thanks to a little prodding from Zephyrhills coaches Janay and Jason Rouser, the latter of whom won gold in the 4x400 at the 1996 Olympics, Roberts is learning the little things about sprinting that help him improve every time he goes out.
“It’s all about putting the work in and competing,” Roberts said. “My coaches know I can do it. I just have to be patient and compete as best I can.”
Roberts has matched his PR in the 100 twice this season — at Chasco and last week’s Mitchell Invitational.
Jacksonville Stanton Prep’s Kendal Williams won the 100 in 10.49 last season at state. If Roberts runs his best time in Jacksonville, he would be a favorite to place as one of the 10 fastest sprinters in the state.
His recent success has attracted interest from Lipscomb University in Nashville. Combined with the interest he has already received as a football receiver, Roberts’ attitude toward multiple-sport participation has taken a 180-degree turn since he started high school.
“I actually am starting to enjoy football and track more than I do basketball,” Roberts said.
10 girls to watch
As the girls track season kicks into high gear, here are 10 athletes to watch, thanks to strong showings this spring, standout performances last year, or both:
Courtney Prengaman, Wesley Chapel: The reigning North Suncoast track athlete of the year became the Wildcats’ first female state champion, prevailing in the high jump last spring (5-6). The Samford signee has won that event in both meets so far and remains a threat for back-to-back titles.
Alisha Henry, Wiregrass Ranch: No one in Class 3A has topped her 10-6 pole vault this spring. She has won that event at the Wiregrass Ranch quad and the Calvary Christian Open after placing sixth at last year’s state meet.
Nikita Shah, Wiregrass Ranch: The Harvard recruit finished third at state in the 3,200 (10:49.62) and is showing speed in other events, too. She finished second in the 1,600 at Calvary Christian and had a strong run in the 800 at Mitchell, finishing third.
Hallie Grimes, Land O’Lakes: Her 400 time of 58.89 seconds is the quickest among 3A juniors. Her success shouldn’t come as a surprise. She placed sixth in that event at state as a sophomore.
Kara Young, Zephyrhills: The standout sprinter has qualified for state the past two years but hasn’t advanced to the finals. She blazed to first place at the Chasco Invitational in the 100 (12.05 seconds) and 200 (25.94 seconds).
Alli Hudson, Fivay: The sophomore thrower blew out the competition at the Mitchell Invitational with a distance of 105-0 in the discus. No sophomore in 2A has a better attempt this spring.
Alfreda Steele, Pasco: The Pirates rookie is quickly becoming one of the North Suncoast’s top athletes. She won the 100 at Mitchell and placed first in the long jump at the Chasco Invitational.
Sandra Nelson, Ridgewood: As a sophomore, she was the district champion in the triple jump while also qualifying for the Class 2A, Region 2 meet in the long jump. She delivered a strong performance with a first-place showing in the triple jump at Chasco.
Wilena Little, Springstead: She capped off her sophomore season with a trip to the 3A state meet, where she finished ninth in the 200. Highlights from her junior season include first-place finishes in the 200 and long jump at Mitchell and a victory in the 100 at Lecanto.
Aysha McCants, Central: It’s early in 2013, but McCants looks like one of Hernando County’s top all-around athletes. At Lecanto, she won the triple jump and long jump — by beating Little. At Weeki Wachee, she won three events and took third in the other.
Staff writer Matt Baker contributed to this report.