A Pasco County track legend is sharing his passion of the sport he still loves.
His name is Bernard “BB” Roberts.
And, he’s encouraging more kids to run — fast.
He knows a little something about that.
Roberts, now 31, still claims five sprinting records at Wesley Chapel High School — 100-meter dash, 200-meter, 400-meter, 4×400-meter relay and the sprint medley.
As a high school senior in 2004, Roberts ran the fastest 100 (10.64) and 200 (22.65) in Pasco County. A four-time Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) state qualifier, Roberts finished fifth in the 400 meters (50.40) at the 2002 Class 2A state finals. In 2003, he finished 12th, but recorded a faster 400 meter time (50.33).
Also a standout football player, Roberts was a jack-of-all-trades. He was a running back, defensive back and kick returner for the 2003 Wildcats (10-1), arguably one of the program’s best teams ever.
Roberts’ prep athletic career was enough to earn him a track scholarship at Coffeyville Community College, an intimate junior college in southeast Kansas.
Since then, he’s been busy— teaching the sport he excelled in.
Roberts organized the Speed Starz Track Club in 2013, and simultaneously created a sports training company — Fast, Sprint, Quick Athletic Performance LLC.
Speed Starz is now a USA Track and Field (USATF) member club.
It had humble beginnings, starting with only about four youths.
From there, it’s grown markedly.
Roberts now regularly trains more than a dozen kids, ranging from ages 4 to 18.
His pupils come from all over Pasco, including Dade City, Zephyrhills, Wesley Chapel, Wiregrass and Land O’ Lakes.
Each year, they compete in about six or seven USATF meets from February through June, concluding with a national championship.
The club will soon begin practice twice a week at Wiregrass Ranch High, in advance of the upcoming season.
Speed Starz is open to all youth, of all abilities.
“Anybody can join,” said Roberts, also a former track coach at Pasco High. “I’m just trying to encourage kids to run track.”
And, hopefully, help them reach their athletic potential.
Track and field, Roberts said, complements other sports that require sprinting.
“It’s a sport that helps you get fast,” said Roberts.
It also potentially opens the door for more scholarship opportunities, he said, because many colleges recruit athletes — particularly football players — to compete in both disciplines.
“If you’re fast, you’re fast,” Roberts said.
And, the younger that kids start running track, the greater chance of becoming elite. Roberts noted the largest developmental strides are usually made between the ages of 10 to 15.
“If you start at an early age now, you’ll be better at it at a later age,” Roberts explained. “Then you’re able to (master) some of the events.”
With 16 total events, middle school and high school track teams often have a need for sizable rosters.
That means plenty of opportunities for involvement are available, serving as a contrast to other team sports — like baseball.
“Not everybody can make a baseball team nowadays,” Roberts said. “Baseball has a limited roster; sometimes kids can’t play baseball.”
But, that’s not the case with track and field. “I can train anybody to run,” he said, unequivocally.
Another benefit of track and field — especially from a parent’s point of view — is the relatively low risk of serious injury.
Because of that, Roberts said more families have recently inquired about Speed Starz, in an effort to steer their children away from contact sports, like football.
“People are running from the sport of football,” he said, “because of concussions nowadays. A lot of times parents don’t want their kid playing football because they don’t want ‘little Johnny’ to get hurt.”
By the same token, track still builds character, Roberts pointed out.
“It teaches you how to compete — at a high level,” he said. “It teaches you to have heart — on and off the field.”
The vigorous exercise is an added bonus, too.
“The sport…will definitely keep the kids active,” Roberts said, “and get them out of that video game room.”
As for his coaching philosophy, Roberts is “a big fan” of resistance training, utilizing Kbands and speed parachutes, among other products.
“You’re guaranteed to get faster like that — if you do it the right way,” he said.
Other drills, meanwhile, emphasize proper sprinting form.
One such technique is called “hip to lip.” The moniker reminds sprinters to lower their shoulders and apply a more pronounced arm swing, during competition.
“Had I known what I know now, I’d be a 10 times better athlete,” Roberts said of the modern training aids.
New this season, Roberts is enlisting the help of a name familiar to followers of the East Pasco prep sports scene: Bryan Thomas, a former Zephyrhills High football and track star who played safety at the University of Florida.
In 2006, Thomas was crowned 2A state champion in the long jump (23-03.5 feet). The prior year, he finished second in the high hump (23-06 feet) and fourth in the 400-meter (49.08 seconds).
“We raced each other all the time,” Roberts said, referring to their high school track days.
Meantime, Roberts is holding a series of training camps at Wesley Chapel District Park through Jan. 16. Along with track athletes, the sessions are open for youth who play other sports, such as baseball, football and tennis.
The focus is on enhancing speed, agility and quickness to mold youth into more explosive athletes.
To Roberts, it’s all just a matter of paying it forward.
“I trained so much (in my career) and did so much research with speed,” he said, “that I wanted to give this knowledge back to someone else.”
Published January 4, 2017