Boys cross country AOY
Roberts gave it his all on way to championship
By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 12, 2017
Even in a sport full of dedicated athletes constantly testing their limits, Black Forest Academy junior Mac Roberts stands out.
“Mac is relentless,” BFA coach Alan Parish said. “His hard work never stops.”
This fall, Roberts reaped the rewards of that hard work.
Roberts, the 2017 Stars and Stripes boys cross country Athlete of the Year and DODEA-Europe individual champion, leapt from a pedestrian 12th-place finish in the 2016 championship meet to a first-place finals triumph this fall. Roberts sliced 56 seconds off his time this from last year, despite uncomfortably cold conditions for the Oct. 28 race at Baumholder, Germany.
“I’m happy with it,” Roberts said. “I gave it my all.”
In some cases, an athlete uttering that comment is simply repeating a common sports platitude. But for Roberts, the phrase takes on a fresh profundity.
Parish said that one of Roberts’ most remarkable qualities as an athlete is the capacity to quite literally give the sport his all.
“Very few athletes are able to truly push themselves to the point of complete exhaustion,” Parish said.
Even among those brave souls that willingly and eagerly participate in a sport as physically taxing as cross country, Roberts is an outlier.
“Most cross country runners are hard workers. They wouldn’t be willing to take part in the sport otherwise,” Parish said. “But only a small percentage of them are mentally tough enough to continue to run fast even when their body is telling them to slow, or that they are tired.”
Roberts did just that to claim the championship this fall. He described the grueling ordeal in detail.
“I felt very calm and strong until my legs kind of went numb on the final (kilometer),” Roberts said. “Then afterwards everything kind of fell apart.
“But yeah, I felt good during the race.”
Roberts even offered physical evidence of the toll the final race had taken on his body.
“I threw up four times,” he said.
Roberts positioned himself for a championship run over the summer, when he estimated he ran about 500 miles, successfully “building a base” for the season. He plans an equally rigorous winter routine to prepare for spring, taking just two weeks off after the European final.
“I coach plenty of athletes who in-season will do just about whatever I ask of them,” Parish said. “But I have coached only a handful of athletes over the last 15 years who are willing to do whatever it takes year-round.”