Already A Two-Time Parapan Champion, Jaleen Roberts Finds Belonging On The Track

By Kara Tanner | Aug. 27, 2019, 8:01 p.m. (ET)

Jaleen Roberts competes at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019.Jaleen Roberts competes at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 27, 2019 in Lima, Peru.

 

Jaleen Roberts has always been an incredible athlete, but it took some time for even herself to believe it, too. 

“Growing up, I was always the athlete at my school with a disability,” said Roberts. 

But once Roberts was introduced to Para track and field by her coaches Teresa Skinner and David Greig at ParaSport Spokane, she found the confidence she needed to compete at the next level.

“I realized I’m actually good at what I do, and I haven’t always felt like that,” said Roberts. “I felt like I finally found my place and my sense of belonging.” 

Now one of U.S. Paralympics Track & Field’s most promising athletes, Roberts is well on her way to making the 2020 U.S. Paralympic Team. 

“It’s so cool to come to competitions where everyone around you also has a disability, and we can show that we are just as able as other athletes.”

Roberts says competing against able-bodied athletes earlier in life helped mold her into the competitor she is today.

“It definitely pushed me a lot,” said Roberts. “The competition was always a bit harder. I was determined to be just as good as them. Because why not?”

In addition to her coaches, one athlete in particular has consistently pushed Roberts to believe in herself. 

“Jerome Avery told me, ‘What got you here, will keep you here,” said Roberts. “I have always remembered that.” 

Jerome Avery has been a guide runner for the U.S. Paralympics Track & Field since 2004, guiding Paralympians such as Lex Gillette, Josiah Jamison and David Brown. 

“He always has some uplifting words of advice,” said Roberts. 

As a college student at Eastern Washington University, Roberts is studying to become a physical education teacher. One day she hopes to share some of the same advice she’s learned as an athlete with her students. 

“I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was little,” said Roberts. “After being a Para track and field athlete, I feel like I can be a good role model for my students and show them that even though I have a disability I can do everything that everyone else can do. I think it’ll help them not make excuses in life.”

But until then, Roberts is focused on finishing the Parapan American Games Lima 2019 on a strong note before she begins prepping for the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. 

“[The Parapan American Games] is a great building block for Tokyo,” said Roberts. “It’s been my goal ever since I started competing in Para track and field, but now it’s less than a year away. I’m super excited. All the sacrifices I’ve made along the way will be worth it.” 

Roberts has already earned gold medals in both the women’s 100 and 200-meter T37 at the Parapan American Games. Track and field competition will wrap up tomorrow, where Roberts will be competing in the long-jump.