LYONS – Mark Roberts has a passion for coaching and on top of that, he loves connecting people.
Roberts’ enthusiasm for coaching has established him as one of the elite high school track and cross country coaches in Colorado. And soon, the Lyons stalwart will be connected to a whole new network of his peers.
On March 28, Roberts will be inducted into the Colorado High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame as part of a five-member 2020 class. Upon being alerted that he would be receiving such and honor, Roberts was quick to point out that he is not, and has never been, a one-man show.
“It’s been a crazy, enjoyable journey,” Roberts said. “My first reaction was just incredible gratitude because it makes you look back on all the different people who have mentored me and helped me, and all the incredible athletes who put in the work to accomplish great things.”
The 57th CHSCA class also includes Cherry Creek football coach Dave Logan, Fountain-Fort Carson track and cross country coach Ben Montoya, Paonia girls basketball coach Scott Reinks, and Revere football coach David Rice. It’s an exceptional group and like each member, Roberts’ coaching resume is clearly deserving of a spot in the CHSCA Hall of Fame.
An alumnus of Niwot High School, class of 1984, Roberts has long been a fixture in Colorado’s running community, both in the northern area and statewide. His connections in track and cross country run deep and span thousands of miles.
Current Silver Creek boys basketball coach Bob Banning was Roberts’ junior varsity basketball coach at Niwot. While Roberts was a student at the University of Colorado, Banning reached out to him with an assistant track and field coaching position at Niwot. After two years as an assistant, Roberts took over the Niwot boys track and field coach job.
After four years at Niwot, Roberts took the job as head cross country coach at Lyons, where he also was assistant football and basketball coach for a while and then took over the track and field job in 2000. He is the only cross country coach at Lyons in the program’s 24-year history.
During Roberts’ tenure, Lyons boys cross country has won six Class 2A state championships and finished runner-up six times. The Lyons girls have won three team titles and were runners-up four times. In track and field, the Lyons Lions have won five boys titles and four girls titles, as well as eight combined runner-up finishes.
Between track and cross country, the individual championships in Roberts’ 24-year tenure are too many to count.
In 2013, Lyons boys runners placed first, second and third to record the only perfect team score in state history. Mark’s son Paul Roberts, who ran from 2012-15, is the only male runner in Colorado prep history to win four state cross country titles. This past fall, Lyons won every possible championship – boys and girls individual titles, as well as boys and girls team titles – to join Niwot (Roberts’ alma mater and first head coaching position) as the first programs to do so since 1995.
For the last 20 years, Roberts has also been the meet director for the St. Vrain Invitational track meet in the spring and for the St. Vrain Invitational cross country meet in the fall. Those are two of the largest meets in the state and have included innovations such as live streaming, professional athlete events with prize money, a $20,000 purse still being offered for a sub-four-minute mile at altitude. The announcing draws numerous positive reviews from those who attend the meets. Roberts does the announcing himself, and it’s clear that organizing and orchestrating high-level competitions ranks highly among his passions.
“It’s sort of a two-fold thing for me,” Roberts said. “I guess when I started going to meets, I just thought from a perspective of the parents, you ought to let them know what’s going on, when the races are starting, who is winning the races and you ought to get their names right. There are a lot of other folks like Tim McIntire, Scott Leiding and others who have pushed those big meets to what they are now. My relationship with those guys and being able to give our little school a connection to some of those big schools was really cool.
“When I reflect on it, I feel like I’m the guy who’s the tip of the iceberg because I’m the guy with the microphone that everyone can see. But it really takes so many people showing up to do their jobs, and many of them do these things without being asked. And when you do that, it creates an atmosphere at our meets that’s competitive but also mutually supportive.”
Former Bayfield track coach and National High School Athletic Coaches Association hall of famer Vernon Kimball nominated Roberts, who has been a CHSCA member for 30 years. Alan Versaw was the Milesplit Colorado editor for a decade and has been the cross country coach at The Classical Academy since 2000. Few people are as familiar with Roberts’ prep coaching career as Versaw, who also invited Roberts, his personal friend, to the induction ceremony when he entered the CHSCA Hall of Fame several years ago.
“I can’t think of a more deserving person,” Versaw said. “The first thing that comes to mind when it comes to Mark is that there are a whole lot of people out there looking for a lot of reward on minimal effort. But Mark is the living, breathing, walking testament to hard work. He’s a deep well of energy and I don’t know where he gets it from. Everybody knows him because he steps up and does things others won’t do, he puts on meets, he presents to committees and I don’t see anyone putting in the sort of effort he puts in on a regular basis.”
Mark Roberts, whose dozens of coach of the year awards have come from numerous outlets, has 10 children with his wife Kim – Andrew, Melissa, Miriam, Paul, Sarah, Isaac, Kathryn, John, Elizabeth and David – and they all run. He always tells them that they will do more work for less praise than anyone else on the team, and five of them have already won an individual event at a track and field state meet. His mother Judy works the athlete entrance gate at all the Lyons meets.
A family man, a coach and someone with a passion for connecting and honoring others, and soon to be a CHSCA hall of famer, Roberts asked if he could submit a “short list” of people he is grateful for who helped him over the year to get where he is today. The abbreviated gratitude list of family, friends, assistant coaches, athletes, athletic directors, and others, included over 50 names.
That list should tell you all you need to know about Mark Roberts, and why his name will soon be added to a list that includes Colorado high school coaching’s best of all time.