Skyline sophomore Nelah Roberts added to her ever growing list of ‘firsts’ on Monday with one of her biggest accolades to date.
Roberts was named Idaho’s winner of Gatorade’s Player of the Year for girls cross country, making her the first eastern Idaho girl to receive the award since Madison’s Rachel Morrin in 2015. Roberts is also the first Skyline athlete in any sport to receive a state Gatorade Player of the Year award since Keisha Fisher in 2006 for volleyball.
The Gatorade Player of the Year selection committee in Chicago selects winners in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. State winners are eligible for the National Player of the Year award, chosen later in the year by Gatorade.
Roberts said Skyline head cross country coach Sean Schmidt had talked with her about the criteria for the award in December when she qualified for the EastBay Cross Country National Championships in San Diego, but she had forgotten about it until Monday when her mom called her on the way to school.
“I’m super excited,” Roberts said Monday morning by phone. “I was just thinking today, thinking back to like middle school or sixth grade kinda where I thought my athletics would go. Never in my life did I expect to get as far as I’ve gotten with running and the awards I’ve received. Running was never a priority. It’s been awesome.”
Gatorade’s press release Monday also shared that Roberts has a 3.95 GPA, is involved in local community service initiatives through church and helps her family business of breeding Bernese mountain dogs. Roberts said she was 8 years old when her older sister Adria, a 2020 Skyline graduate, got the idea to start the business.
“Our last litter was in the fall and we sold all of the puppies,” Roberts said. “Each litter has a theme for names like galaxy, flowers, Star Wars, Lion King.”
Roberts, who competed in soccer, cross country, basketball and track as a freshman, had a historic season last fall. She repeated as 4A girls individual state champion, won six 5k races, broke the 18-minute barrier three times (the only eastern Idaho girl on record to break 18 multiple times for a 5k), became the first eastern Idaho girl to break 18 minutes at Eagle Island State Park and 19 minutes at Freeman Park, placed third at the Nike Cross Northwest Regional Championships in November at Eagle Island, placed 10th at EastBay West Regional Championships in 17:50 (matching her personal best) on Dec. 4 in Walnut, Calif., and placed 25th in 18:14.2 at the EastBay Cross Country National Championships Dec. 11 in San Diego. She is the fifth Idaho girl ever to qualify for EastBay (formerly Footlocker) Nationals, and the only eastern Idaho girl qualifier.
Her historic season also landed her a big time invite. Roberts shared Monday that she has been invited to compete in New Balance Indoor Nationals, scheduled for March 11-13 at the Armory in New York City. Roberts competed in the Snake River Open at Idaho State’s Holt Arena earlier this month and will be competing at another indoor track meet this weekend at BYU.
“Winter running is pretty brutal, but I know what I have to do,” Roberts said. “My break (in December) was pretty nice, but I’ve definitely gotten back into running every day.”