Inspired by family history, Lyons' Roberts making his own name for himself

Lyons' Paul Roberts. (Alan Versaw/Colorado Track XC)

Lyons' Paul Roberts. (Alan Versaw/Colorado Track XC)

Paul Roberts, before he ever sported the blue and black singlet of Lyons, had ambitions for cross country and track.

"In seventh or eighth grade my dad told me that no one had ever won four state championships in cross country," Roberts said. "That's when I made the goal to win four. I think another goal on my mind was to try and win four team championships."

Check and check, as Roberts has earned three titles individually and three titles with his teammates in three seasons in Class 2A cross country. He's well on his way. 

On the national level, the junior ran 14:57 for 5k at the Nike Cross Country Southwest Regional Championships last November, good for fifth place, before earning 18th at the Nike National Meet in Portland, Oregon.

On Feb. 7 in Boulder, Roberts toed the line with many of the nation's premier prep runners, to go along with college freshman, for an under-20 Junior Men's USA Cross Country Championship race. The top six placers in the race would earn bids to the Worlds XC Championships in China.

Four with Colorado roots, Oklahoma State's Cerake Geberkidane (Denver East), Palmer Ridge's Eric Hamer, Colorado's Paul Miller (Poudre), and Roberts placed second, fourth, fifth, and sixth respectively to get the right to represent Team USA at Worlds.

For all of Roberts' achievements in cross, he excelled on the track as a sophomore, but didn't quite reach the lofty standards he set for himself in each event.

After a spectacular freshman debut in the 3,200 meters with a time of 9:31 at the Broomfield Shootout, a race he won over many of 5A's best including Liberty's Clayson Shumway, Mountain Vista's Andrew Walton, and Pine Creek's Zachary Alhamra, Roberts has only bested the 9:31 once with a 9:27.58 at the Longmont Invitational last spring.

"I think the 3,200, even the last two years, he's probably had a better race in him than he had times for at the end of the year," said Mark Roberts, Paul's father and the Lyons' head coach of cross country and track. "I think breaking 9:20 is obviously well within his reach this year. Can he go 9:15? Can he get down to around 9:10 this year?"

Roberts, whose personal best in the 1,600 meters is 4:20, has earned 2A gold medals in the 1,600 twice and the 3,200 once. He placed second in the 3,200 his freshman year, getting inched out by junior teammate Marcel Such.

Roberts helped Lyons claim the boys team title two years ago. They were the runner-up to Lutheran in 2014.

The results speak for themselves, but how did a small-school runner from a town nestled in the foothills outside of Boulder become so fast in the first place?

Roberts grew up in one of the more well-known running families in Colorado.

Older brother Andrew, a 2009 Lyons grad, won a cross country state title and two 3,200 state titles. His 1,600 (4:22) and 3,200 (9:27.62) school records were taken down last spring by Paul.

Sisters Melissa (2011 grad), several times all-state, and Miriam (2014 grad), a multiple state champion herself, joined Andrew in inspiring Paul to take up the sport. It started with Paul tagging along on runs in a park in Lyons with his older siblings and joining his dad on trips to meets. 

"Ever since I can remember, I would go with him to the track meets and I would be the paper boy and get the paper from the finish line and run it up to the press box," Roberts said. "I would also watch all my brothers and sisters and I probably got more nervous for the races than they did. That kind of inspired me."

In 2A, Roberts-led Lyons expects to contend for the team title, while defending champion Lutheran has moved up to 3A. Rye, and a few others, could also contend in 2A.

Heritage Christian inched past Vail Christian by five points for the 1A crown in 2014. Both teams might be at the front of the pack.

In 3A, traditional powerhouse The Classical Academy has moved up to 4A, but last year's runner-up in Coal Ridge should be very strong.

Palmer Ridge, after a dominant 103 points to beat second-place Valor Christian by 37 last year, returns sprint stalwart Caleb Ojennes and distance star Eric Hamer for another run at the 4A championship. They have an extremely strong program. Valor should also be very good.

Fountain-Fort Carson, which snuck past Grandview by two points and Cherokee Trail by six to claim its 16th state championship in boys track last year, is expected to contend. Grandview figures as the biggest challenger.

Boys track and field preview

Class 5A

Season begins: March 6

State meet: May 14-16, Jeffco Stadium

Returning all-state athletes: Andrew Barlow, senior, Monarch, pole vault; Olabisi Johnson, senior, Bear Creek, 110 hurdles; Max McDonald, senior, Rocky Mountain, shot put, discus; Ben Morgan, senior, Highlands Ranch, long jump.

Class 4A

Season begins: March 6

State meet: May 14-16, Jeffco Stadium

Returning all-state athletes: Trenton Stringari, senior, Canon City, 300 hurdles.

Class 3A

Season begins: March 6

State meet: May 14-16, Jeffco Stadium

Returning all-state athletes: Robert Delfeld, senior, St. Mary's, 800 meters; Nick Deray, senior, The Classical Academy, 200 meters, 400 meters; Jayce Hall, junior, The Classical Academy, long jump; Miguel Molas, senior, James Irwin, 100 meters; Austin Williams, senior, Cedaredge, shot put; Ryan Younggreen, senior, Holy Family, 110 hurdles, Chris Youngs, junior, Lutheran, 100 meters, 200 meters.

Class 2A

Season begins: March 6

State meet: May 14-16, Jeffco Stadium

Returning all-state athletes: Nico Forcatto, senior, Liberty Common, 400 meters; Brandon Hinkle, junior, Yuma, pole vault; Garrett Quintana, junior, John Mall, discus; Paul Roberts, junior, Lyons, 1600 meters, 3200 meters.  

Class 1A

Season begins: March 6

State meet: May 14-16, Jeffco Stadium

Returning all-state athletes: Nick Boyne, junior, Vail Christian, pole vault; Kyle English, senior, Stratton, long jump, triple jump; Bryce Grahn, sophomore, South Baca, 3200 meters; Koy Palmer, senior, Granada, 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles.