WATERLOO — Kerris Roberts has become accustomed to life in the fast lane.
Yet, when it came down to deciding on a college, Roberts took her time. Waterloo East’s five-time state and two-time Drake Relays champion sprinter signed a National Letter of Intent on Tuesday to continue her track and field career at Purdue University.
Roberts had received interest from schools throughout the nation, including Stanford, Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Texas A&M and Kansas, before ultimately deciding to stay in the Midwest. She informed Purdue of her decision Friday, and didn’t make a public commitment until Tuesday’s signing ceremony.
“It was a really tough decision,” said Roberts, who took a visit to Purdue prior to the Boilermakers competing at last spring’s Drake Relays. “I’m extremely blessed, extremely excited. It’s a great program, great teammates, great coaches. I’m excited for what the next four years will bring.”
Roberts is looking forward to her final season of high school track after a hamstring injury derailed her progress last spring. Her sophomore personal records of 11.69 in the 100 and 24.09 in the 200 each rank third on Iowa’s all-time list. Roberts still posted a fourth place 100-meter time of 11.95 at last year’s state meet despite assessing her health at 70 percent.
Breaking 24 seconds in the 200 and 11.5 in the 100 are among Roberts’ goals this season. Accomplishing both would put her near the state record times clocked by Southeast Polk’s Sydney Milani during her incredible 2018 senior finale.
“I feel better now, but we’ll see next season,” Roberts said. “I think that anything is possible. I have confidence in myself, confidence in my teammates, confidence in my coaches.”
Roberts reconnected with her middle school track coach Brittany Jungck over the summer for rehab training. They worked on developing slow-twitch muscles through distance running as part of the recovery process.
“She’s in the best shape she’s ever been in now which makes it really exciting for us going into this year,” said Jungck, who will work as an assistant on the staff of East’s new head coach Wilmot Wellington. “She’s strong and agile and now has this endurance with it so she can pretty much do anything.”
Kerris’ mom, Sherie, sat by her daughter’s side during Tuesday’s signing ceremony. She can recall first seeing Kerris’ athletic ability surface at age four during tee-ball. While the entire team would race to every hit, it wasn’t uncommon for Kerris to be playing first base, arrive first to a ball hit to left field, and then go back and tag a runner out.
Basketball became Roberts’ favorite sport growing up, and she also competed in travel softball and Waterloo Junior Golf Association tournaments. She then started setting records in middle school track, and never looked back.
Roberts won the Drake Relays 100-meter dash as a freshman to go with victories in the 4x100 and 200 later that season. She repeated as the Drake champion and won three state titles her sophomore season.
In addition to her track success, Roberts is a three time first team all-metro basketball selection.
“It’s bittersweet,” Sherie Roberts said, after her daughter signed her letter of intent. “I’ve missed very few of her events my whole life. With her going on to college, I’m not going to be at 100 percent of her meets. However, it’s time to let her spread her wings and go.”
Indeed, Roberts has a bright future. She plans to major in accounting at Purdue.
“She’s setting a great example for a lot of the talent we have in the Cedar Valley,” Jungck said. “She works two jobs all summer. She gets good grades, she plays multiple sports, she takes leadership opportunities. She’s the whole package.”