March 19, 2013

College Connections: Jenni Roberts reaches goal, now wants more

By Steve Craig
Staff Writer

Jenni Roberts is making her first trip to the NCAA women's swimming & diving championships as a University of New Hampshire Wildcat. But the Springvale resident and 2010 Sanford High grad is no stranger to the event.

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Jenni Roberts, a Sanford High grad, will compete in three events at the NCAA Division I swimming and diving championships at Indianapolis this week for the University of New Hampshire.

Courtesy University of New Hampshire

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Jenni Roberts

Roberts was an honorable mention All-American last season in the 200 free relay for the University of Maryland and the Terrapins' team finished 13th.

Trouble was, that was not only Roberts' last race for Maryland but also one of the very last for the program. Maryland eliminated swimming and diving from its athletic department.

"They gave everyone the option of you can stay at Maryland and keep scholarship and about half the team stayed and the other half left," Roberts said Tuesday in a phone interview from Indianapolis. "I knew I wanted to continue swimming. I just had to find a school I'd be happy with."

It turned out that school was less than an hour from her home and "I'm enjoying it even more."

Roberts is scheduled to compete in the 200 and 100 yard butterfly events and the 200 individual medley. She is joined in Indianapolis by UNH sophomore Katie Mann. They are the only two women from the America East to qualify.

The NCAA Division I championship meet is being held at the IU Natatorium in Indianapolis on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). The meet begins Thursday and concludes Saturday.

Many of the swimmers and coaches, including Roberts, Mann and UNH Coach Josh Willman, spent Tuesday afternoon in a lockdown situation. A lone gunman was reported roaming the campus. Willman said they received an email to stay in their rooms until further notice.

"We were hoping to go to the pool around 4:30," Willman said about an hour and a half earlier. "We're fine. The meet doesn't start until Thursday."

Roberts was a dominant swimmer at Sanford, losing one race her freshman season then going undefeated the rest of the way, racking up seven state championships.

This past summer she competed at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials in the 200 IM and the 200 butterfly.

"It was awesome to watch the fastest swimmers in the world and be able to be on the pool deck," Roberts said. "My goal was just to get there, so it was really fun to be there."

This season at UNH she set personal records in all her top events.

"I've gotten a lot faster. All of my best times have come this year," Roberts said. "I think the coaches here just know what they're doing. They're very organized, they have a plan for every year and we know where we should be at, at every meet of the season, all with the idea of swimming our best at the end of the season. We work hard and it shows by how fast we're going."

Competing in her first America East championship, Roberts was named the Most Outstanding Swimmer after breaking conference records in the 200 IM and the 200 butterfly.

She also set four pool records this season and at the ECAC Championships set meet and personal records in the 100 fly (53.41 seconds) and 200 fly (1 minute, 57.31 seconds) and a PR of 1:58.79 in the 200 IM.

Roberts is seeded 30th in the 200 fly at the NCAA meet, her best placement. The top 38 competitors are invited in each event.

"I had two goals this season. We wanted to win the America East team title and we did that and I wanted to make it back to the NCAA meet," Roberts said.

"Now, my goal here is to see what else I can do."

(Continued on page 2)

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