Transfer Chant’e Roberts fitting in nicely with GVSU track and field

GVL / Emily Frye      
Chante Roberts on Tuesday Feb. 28, 2017.

GVL / Emily Frye Chant’e Roberts on Tuesday Feb. 28, 2017.

Jacob Arvidson

Being ranked No. 1 in the country doesn’t happen by accident in the track and field community. Grand Valley State’s women’s team has displayed top-level performances in many events and with many different athletes.

But one athlete in particular has pushed the Lakers to the top. Chant’e Roberts, a transfer from Eastern Michigan, was not a part of the GVSU team that finished third in the country during the 2016 indoor season. The junior has made the difference in this year’s team.

“After last year we really needed one more person,” said Angela Ritter, the only Laker teammate to run a faster time in the 400 than Roberts this year. “We were missing one person from our team. Coach recruited her and she just fit it. She runs great times and has great energy.

“She kind of perfected the team.”

After an injury-plagued start to the season, Roberts was thrust into the 4×400-meter relay team, making an immediate impact. In her first ever meet as part of the relay, she combined with Rachael Walters, Jessica O’Connell and Ritter to shatter the previous school record and earn an automatic mark for the national meet.

“It was so easy,” O’Connell said. “Usually when you get a new person it takes some adjusting, but it really didn’t with Chant’e.”

Roberts is just as great on her own as she is during the relay. She posted an adjusted time of 55.68 seconds in the open 400 during the GLIAC Championships Sunday, Feb. 26, earning her the second-to-last spot at the national meet and the GLIAC title in the event.

“I told myself I was the fastest one out there and it was my race,” she said. “I knew I had to win my heat and do the best I could do. The girl pulled up at the line and I went through the line and I won my heat.”

Roberts will join Ritter in the 400 dash at the NCAA Division II Indoor National Championships Friday, March 10, as the two try and score major points and contribute to a national championship.

“I’ve never been at this level before, as far as nationals go,” Roberts said. “At Eastern, (the Mid-American Conference meet) was always the end for me. So now it’s really cool. I don’t really have a feel on it yet.”

Injuries marred Roberts’ first few months at GVSU and kept her from unleashing her talent until early February. Minor hamstring and back twinges were the issue this season, but Roberts has gone through much worse.

A 2014 graduate of Waverly High School in Lansing, Roberts went on to compete for Eastern Michigan’s track and field team for two years, but strange things kept happening to her legs.

“To this day, I still don’t know what happened,” she said. “Freshman year, I would run and then collapse because the pain was so much that my body would stop sending pain signals and just collapse.”

The issue was compounded the following year when Roberts’ back started to flare up.

“It just got worse and worse, to the point where I actually lost feeling in my foot,” she said. “No one really believed me because I could still run 55s in the 400 and split 54s in the relay.

“Throughout the injury I was collapsing more and more. I would get up and my back would seize and I’d collapse. It was bad.”

After a summer of physical therapy, Roberts transferred to GVSU as a junior.

“It wasn’t working out for me (at Eastern),” she said. “Injuries and whatnot, I just didn’t feel like I was much of a priority, but it’s cool because now I’m at GVSU.”

Now, the mental hurdle of running without the threat of injury is the only thing holding her back.

“I just have to break out of the conscience that, if I run like this, I’m going to get hurt,” she said. “I have to be confident that I’m good, so I can run like I know I can run. That thought is holding me back and I’m trying to break out of it.”

When Roberts breaks through that mental barrier, the difference will be obvious, she said, hinting that she knows she can run a sub 54-second 400.

Roberts’ speed on the track would help any viewer single her out, but when she’s not running she is still easy to find. Her boisterous laugh will shatter any uncomfortable moment and put a smile on the face of any teammate.

“If there’s ever a quiet or awkward moment, she breaks it when she starts laughing and it’s gone and everyone else starts laughing,” O’Connell said.