Willmar's Roberts catches wave in pool

Though he's land-locked for now, it's no stretch to imagine Jackson Roberts riding a breaker. Even in January, he has the healthy glow of a surfer. Just maybe, it has something to do with his roots. He was born in Santa Barbara, up the California...

Though he's land-locked for now, it's no stretch to imagine Jackson Roberts riding a breaker. Even in January, he has the healthy glow of a surfer.

Just maybe, it has something to do with his roots. He was born in Santa Barbara, up the California coast from Los Angeles, Jackson has lived in Willmar since the family moved here when he was three. He talks of returning to the coast, after graduation. Apparently, you can take the boy out of California -- but you can't take California out of the boy.

One of his first friends here was Trevor Fosso. They grew up together and for the last four years have been teammates on the swimming and diving team. Roberts was a late starter but caught on quickly.

The swimming coaches association website lists Roberts as the fastest Class A swimmer in the state in the 50 freestyle. Pretty good for some one who could only slap at the water when he joined the swim program as a freshman.

He thanks Fosso for getting him off his backside.


Roberts had joined the nordic ski team as a seventh- grader but the 2002-03 winter was all but snowless so he never caught the skiing bug.

After that he just hung out, wondering what, if anything, he would do in high school.

"He wasn't doing anything," said Fosso, who started swimming in the varsity pool as a seventh grader along with current seniors Ryan Larsen and Andrew Nicklawsky, the Cardinal co-captain with Roberts. "I told him he might as well come to the pool and try it."

Coach Carl Shuldes said the only thing remarkable about the freshman was his size -- he already was over six-foot -- and a lack of any swimming skills.

But by the close of his sophomore year, Shuldes said it became "apparent he could be a pretty good swimmer.

"He lifted weights and got stronger and he was dedicated," added Shuldes. "You can see his strength in the water."

Roberts said it didn't bother him that he was behind his classmates.

"It was painful (the practices) but it was a lot of fun," he told me on Monday before practice. "What I liked most was being part of a team."


Roberts is a muscular 6-5 and 230 pounds, powerful enough to be a linebacker. He's not as streamlined as Scott Hagemeyer, also tall, nor as compact as Brad Lewis, the only two Cardinals to swim a faster 50 free.

Perhaps his sheer size is one reason his starts have been better than his finish. The True Team state meet was an exception. He maintained his speed to the wall finishing in 22:12, a TT state record.

Roberts has three younger siblings. His father is Eric Roberts, a 1987 Willmar graduate who lettered twice in golf. His mother, Stacey, played volleyball for Osseo High School and later North Hennepin CC. She transferred to Westmont College in Santa Barbara. Eric and Stacey met while staffers at a church camp near Brainerd and were married while Stacey was attending college at Westmont.

Jackson, who is considering swimming next year at either his mother's alma mater or Gustavus Adolphus, is aiming to break 22.0 before the season ends. He'll have his first chance on Saturday during the Central Lakes meet at Alexandria. He also swims the 100 free and is on two freestyle relays that already have gone under the state standard. His mates on the 200 relay have been Nicklawsky, Kyle Schmidt, and Andy Johnson. It's the same foursome on the 400 but with Steve Kluver instead of Schmidt.

Willmar's diving team of eighth-graders Bennet Woltjer and Aaron Weideman and seventh-grader Josh Kelly won't have much of an impact on the CLC diving competition, which begins with the preliminaries tonight. But their coach, Alicia Alvarado, is certain they have a bright future.

Alvarado has volunteered the last two years to guide the boys diving program. She receives no remuneration but last year was surprised when parents gave her a cash gift as a thank you.

She lettered three years diving for the girls team, missing the state meet by two places this fall. She still participated, however, singing the National Anthem before each Class A session. She also sings the anthem at all home meets.

Next week she will sing in the prestigious All-State Choir along with three others from the high school. She's looking at attending one of the colleges in the MIAC, including St. Olaf, famous for its choir.


? After a 20-0 start, 2007 Cardinal Hall of Fame inductee Pete Stahnke and his Park Rapids boys hockey team finally lost to Kittson Central at Hallock 3-2 on Friday. That left Roseau as the state's only boys hockey team with an unbeaten record.

? In a head to head battle of Willmar graduates, Pat Dorsey's Edina Hornets beat Scott Swanson's Woodbury Royals 91-68 on Tuesday. Interestingly, both Swanson (1974) and Dorsey (1988) played on Cardinal state tournament teams in basketball and both played in the state title game in baseball. Edina's next three games are with powerhouses Hopkins, Minnetonka and Wayzata.

? Minnesota Basketball News ranks the Willmar boys behind Mankato West in Section 2-AAA. West humbled Rocori 59-40 on Monday, the Spartans' four lost in its last five games.

? Two of the ten Minnesota Ms. Hockey Finalist are from the Central Lakes Conference: Ashley Holmes of Alexandria and Anne Schleper of St. Cloud Apollo/Cathedral. Alexandria is rated No. 3 in Class A, only Twin Cities private schools Breck and Blake are ahead.

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