When Daviess County’s Emily Ann Roberts crossed the finish line at Yellow Creek Park during the annual City-County Championships, she did it like she does most things, with a smile on her face.
Roberts cruised to victory in the race then finished runner-up at the Class 3A Region Championship before taking 21st in the KHSAA Class 3A State Cross Country Championship in Paris.
It’s Roberts dominance on the course that makes her the Owensboro Times Girls’ Cross Country Athlete of the Year.
Like most senior athletes this year, Roberts had to change the way she did certain things but she said was has happy she just got to compete.
“Senior year, for a lot of people, is the year where everyone tries to do as many things as possible,” she said. “This year, for obvious reasons, most of the seniors missed out on things they really wanted to do. For me, I was just happy to be able to run with other people. It was a real struggle getting meets together, and this being my last year it meant a lot to me that we were able to race Fast Cats and City County.”
Running wasn’t new for Roberts when she started her career at Daviess County as she also ran at Highland Elementary with kids who would turn out to be teammates.
“I started running in elementary school. I ran for Highland and we came out to Yellow Creek to do the kid races they held,” she said. “Almost all the seniors I’m graduating with did those races as well, we have pictures where I’m sitting next to a future teammate and didn’t know it. From there I ran all through middle school and finally all through high school too. I never took running seriously till I was in high school and I think that helped a lot with avoiding getting burnt out with the sport.”
Roberts has been a standout for the Lady Panthers for the last three seasons, including a top-40 finish at state every year since her sophomore year at DC.
Despite all her accolades, none of the trophies she won were the highlight during her time as a Panther.
“The highlight of my DC career has been seeing the support the program has,” she said. “I can agree with some people and say that cross country meets can be boring. Spending your whole Saturday standing in a field with the sun beaming down on you or freezing rain soaking you wouldn’t be my ideal day. Yet, at every meet, there’s a mob of red following us, some are occasional viewers and some even show up to the practices.”
We don’t have a student section, we’ve got one better, a parent section. This group of parents, with some coaches and kids thrown in, cheers like every runner is in first. That’s not all they do. They bring water or Gatorade, sometimes cookies and granola bars. I’m grateful for the people that come to my races, It’s going to be something I’ll miss.”
Roberts admitted she’s spent a lot of time on the course during her career and ran a lot of races but when she looks back, she said she’s more likely to remember who she was ran than she finished in front of.
“The thing I’m going to remember most from running at DC isn’t going to be the running, surprisingly,” she said. “I remember the parties and adventures most vividly. I couldn’t describe a single workout from freshman year, but I do remember the week we spent in Gatlinburg, getting up just as the sun was rising. The five of us freshmen would stand on the balcony together and watch it.
“That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy running, I loved it. Anyone on the team would be lying if they said they didn’t remember the early morning long runs. Out of everything I’ve done and seen while being a part of the DC cross country team, I’m happy to be walking away with the memories of friends and family this sport has given me.”
While cross country may seem like strictly an individual sport to those from the outside, it takes a team to win a title. It takes several people working in one cohesive unit to maneuver the course and come out on top.
For Roberts, that’s what she learned the most during her career.
“Being a DC cross country runner has taught me dedication and hard work,” she said. “Balancing school and a sport has shown me that although it may be stressful, I’ll make it through. That if I really want something, I need to work for it. It’s taught me how to trust and respect others. I’ve realized that I’m never really on my own, there are people I rely on and there are people that rely on me. After four years I feel confident to be able to succeed in college and a job.”