- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Jamie Roberts had such an impact on those around her that she had an impact even in situations that many would deem odd.
Catholic University women’s basketball head coach Matt Donohue first felt the impact of Roberts when he coached against Roberts during her time as a player with the St. Mary’s College of Maryland Seahawks women’s basketball team.
That impact stuck with Donohue so much so that when Roberts graduated from St. Mary’s College in 2011, he brought her to Washington, D.C., for Catholic University basketball camps as a coach and eventually added her onto his staff as an assistant coach where she had been the past three years.
“I just remember the very first time I saw her play she was just an intense competitor,” Donohue said. “I was just amazed at how she led, how she gathered people together and how she inspired people.”
On June 13, the 24-year-old Roberts, a Rockville native and three-sport athlete while at St. Mary’s College, was killed in an accident after being struck by a vehicle in Kentucky, the college confirmed. A Catholic press release stated that Roberts’ group of five cyclists had stopped while Roberts changed a tire on her bike, according to a report by the Georgetown News-Graphic in Kentucky.
Roberts was in Kentucky while on a cross country, 4,000-mile “4K for Cancer” annual bike ride for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults that allows bike riders to go from Baltimore to Portland, Ore., while raising money to aide young adults affected by cancer.
“She meant an awful lot,” Donohue said. “When you look at what she did here at Catholic within women’s basketball, and even in sports information, she impacted a lot of people, so many people, in such a positive way. It’s unbelievable to think that a 24-year-old woman could have such an amazing impact on people but she did.”
Ulman Cancer Fund CEO Brock Yetso said in a statement, “It is with the deepest sadness that the Ulman Cancer Fund faces the loss of Jamie Roberts. This passionate young woman, so precious to her family and loved ones, lost her life in a tragic accident today as she rode across America to raise funds and awareness for young adults fighting cancer.
“Jamie’s selflessness, her commitment to serving others and her deep devotion to her friends, family and fellow riders was apparent to everyone who knew her.”
That sentiment was shared throughout the St. Mary’s College community where she had touched so many peers, teammates, coaches and friends as part of the women’s basketball, lacrosse and soccer teams, spending four years with women’s basketball, three years with lacrosse and two years with soccer.
In her senior year on the hardwood, Roberts was named the St. Mary’s College of Maryland Athlete of the Year and was awarded the Athletic Director’s Award after leading the women’s basketball team in total points scored, with 251, and scoring average, with 10.0 points per game in 25 games played.
Roberts was the lone Seahawks player in her senior year to be awarded Capital Athletic Conference women’s basketball All-Conference honors with her second-team nod at the forward position. She was named a team captain in soccer in her senior year, as well.
“I was in shock,” said former Seahawks women’s soccer head coach Brianne Weaver, who coached Roberts during her two-year soccer stint. “I think most of us felt like it didn’t happen and we hoped that it didn’t happen. I was stunned. She was just so young and had so much in front of her and she was always doing something. That was so typical of Jamie, giving back to other people.”
Roberts came to Weaver before junior year expressing her interest to play soccer and as a defender, Roberts rose to team-captain status in her senior year.
“She was so incredibly positive,” said Weaver, a 2000 St. Mary’s College graduate who will begin her third season as head women’s soccer coach at Bowdoin College, a Division III school in Maine, this fall. “She was so team-minded and the team always came first. Jamie never wanted to put herself before anyone else and I think that sends a strong message to everyone that works with her. ... Coaching her was a dream.”
Virginia Williams, a 2013 St. Mary’s College graduate, played closely with Roberts on the soccer field as both made up part of the team’s defensive core. Roberts played to the left of Williams.
“I think that I am still in shock that it all happened,” Williams said. “I am really just trying to focus on the positives and the positives of Jamie’s life and use that to keep everything going forward.”
Williams was a freshman on the women’s soccer team when Roberts joined as a junior.
“I met her in soccer tryouts and it was in August, in Southern Maryland, hot and miserable, but she was one of those players, people and leaders that brought a smile to everyone’s face,” Williams said. “I remember her standing on the line cheering me on to push through the sprints and that was one of my first memories of her as an upperclassmen and being so supportive of a freshman that she didn’t even know yet.”
When asked what she meant to the team, Williams said, “Everything.”
Current St. Mary’s head women’s lacrosse coach Lisa Valentine took over the program during Roberts’ senior year, while Roberts was still in her basketball season. She finally was able to meet Roberts for the first time during a sitdown in her office.
“I had always heard such great things and after meeting with her and seeing her out at practice the first few times, I could immediately tell what kind of impact she had,” Valentine said. “The way she carried herself, how she picked up her teammates, her leadership on and off the field, you could tell right away that she was a very special person.”
Bill Wood, freelance photographer for the college and part-time basketball public-address announcer, mentioned that Roberts had a sense about her that could not be mistaken.
“She was always one of those kids that always said hello and made it a point to chat,” Wood said. “You just knew that she was going to be successful at whatever she did and it’s just tough to see one of those bright lights go out a lot sooner than she should have.”
St. Mary’s College athletic director Scott Devine said in a college press release, “This is such sad news as everyone who knew Jamie really loved her.”
Supporting Jamie’s cause
With just over 3,500 miles remaining on her journey across the country, a Facebook group, “Miles for Jamie” was formed by 2009 graduate Jackie (Reid) Killebrew, according to the college press release.
The group allows supporters to post a number of miles walked or biked in hopes of adding up to the number of miles remaining on Roberts’ trip to Portland.
“Let’s get our Jamie to the finish line,” reads the last line in the about section of the group.
In honor of Roberts, Ulman Cancer Fund riders took a 48-hour hiatus from their respective trips. One other rider suffered non-life threatening injuries in the accident, according to the Ulman Cancer Fund press release.
The Ulman Cancer Fund statement also read that the Roberts family would like all donations in honor of Jamie to be made to the Ulman Cancer Fund and the 4K for Cancer Portland team at http://4kforcancer.org/profiles/jamie-roberts.
Information about funeral arrangements were not available at press time.