Swimming & Diving: Jenni Roberts continues to excel

By Josh Sullivan
On February 7, 2014

It is often difficult for successful athletes to recall what exactly sparked their interest in the sport, especially when he or she has been playing that sport their whole life. The road to Jenni Roberts' swimming career began as it does with so many lovers of the sport: with a simple swimming lesson.

"My parents signed my sister and I up for swimming lessons and we were both kind of just naturally good swimmers, so they signed us up for the swim team," Roberts said. "My sister stopped swimming and I continued. She started to play basketball, because that's what my family did, and I just kept swimming and kept improving. At least that's what they tell me."

Since those days, Roberts has made quite a bit of improvement, leaving an impression on the world of swimming wherever she goes. 

She was named the Division I swimmer of the week by collegeswimming.com, and the America East Conference swimmer of the week for her stellar performance against Yale that resulted in Roberts claiming three separate pool records, including being the first leg of the 400 medley team that set the Swasey Pool record of three minutes, 50.30 seconds.

"I led off doing backstroke, and I used to do a lot of backstroke and I hadn't for a while, so it's been fun to throw that back in my events." Roberts said. "During the butterfly portion of the relay, Katie Mann and I had already swam and we looked up at the clock and then the pool record, and we just said to each other 'We can beat this!'"

The records posted against Yale were just a few more accolades on a laundry list of achievements in Roberts' career that include ECAC and American East swimmer of the year in 2013. 

The Springvale, ME native even made it as far as Olympic trials, a goal she had set for herself in junior high school, when she realized she might be able to swim at a higher level when others on her club team were doing well nationally.

 Roberts traveled to Omaha, NE in the summer of 2012, where she swam alongside the likes of Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps.

"I didn't swim as fast as I would have liked," Roberts said. "But it was still a great experience to go and watch all the well known athletes swim."

The 21-year-old senior transferred to UNH after her sophomore year at the University of Maryland, which no longer had a swimming and diving team. 

"After my second year, the school hired a new athletic director, and there were nine programs cut. Swimming and diving happened to be one of them," Roberts said about her previous school. "We were given the option of keeping our scholarships and remaining at UMD, or being released and allowed to transfer. I definitely wanted to keep swimming."

"Jenni had already committed to Maryland when we tried to recruit her as a senior [out of high school], but she trains at Seacoast in Dover, and when she was home for the summer she would be training with a ton of members on our team, and they all would hang around," Coach Josh Willman said. "And when she went back to school, within a couple of months is when she learned about the dropping of the program. 

It's always sad to see a program like that drop, especially a good one like Maryland, but in the back of my mind I remember thinking 'Hmm, Jenni, maybe we could recruit her.'" 

Willman said that Roberts probably doesn't remember this, but it was she who actually reached out to UNH with a text message she sent alumnus Sydney Tribou on the bus ride home from America East Championships. 

"I thought she was lying," Willman said of Tribou. "She came up to me and said 'Coach, guess who just texted me!'"

Roberts fit right in with the squad, only having to adjust her training style to her new role on the team.

As for her future, there are many things that are left unanswered. Roberts hopes to qualify for NCAA's, and more specifically place in the top 16 so she can "put New Hampshire on the map for swimming." Beyond that, the economics major is unsure of what is ahead. 

"It's going to be really strange not having my structured practices. I'm definitely going to have to keep swimming, and my sister (Mary) texted me the other day saying 'Do you want to do a triathlon with me and Mom?' and I'm definitely going to have to stay in the water so maybe I'll try that."

What did Coach Willman have to say about this idea?

"I've seen her run, so that needs a little bit of work, and I'm not going to let her get on a bike until the season's over." 

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