There were supposed to be 13 athletes on the Niwot High stage for signing day last month, but state cross-country champion Layla Roebke was having a hard time making up her mind. With competing offers from a diverse selection of NCAA Division I and Division II programs, the senior wasn’t quite ready to sit alongside her classmates and sign away the next four years of her life.
“I really, really wanted to make sure that I went to a college that I would do well at and enjoy,” she said.
Last week, Roebke announced that she has finally made a decision. Next year, the talented distance runner will be attending the University of Tulsa, where she will compete in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and 5K distance run in the Division I American Athletic Conference. Roebke also considered offers from UCLA and the San Francisco Academy of Art, the only higher arts institution that also competes in athletics. Ultimately, she said the decision came down to which school was the better fit.
“I just really liked the coaches and coaching, and it seemed like a good decision to run there and see how I like competing at the collegiate level,” she said of Tulsa. “I talked to Coach Christensen about which schools would be good options for me, but when it came down to it, the decision was solely on my own.”
As for academics at Tulsa, Roebke will be pursuing her other passion—art. A talented sculptor and painter, Roebke plans to study art history, with hopes of becoming a curator.
Roebke came to Niwot as a senior, but her short tenure with the school’s distance program will have a lasting impact. In October, she claimed the Class 4A individual cross-country title and led the Cougars to their first ever team championship. This spring, she was a solid contributor on the track, and helped Niwot pick up another state championship
Roebke isn’t slowing down just because the CHSAA season is over. Last weekend, she was a member of the winning distance medley team at the prestigious New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, NC. On June 7, she posted a dominating win the 2,000 meter steeplechase at the Great Southwest Classic in Albuquerque, a hopeful sign for her upcoming career with the Golden Hurricanes.
“A lot of girls are inexperienced when they come to compete in this event, but I’ve been practicing for a while, and I’ve been coming to this event for a couple of years, so I’ve been learning to race steeple.”
In track, steeplechase incorporates hurdles and water jumps for the runner to negotiate, and falls are a common concern. Roebke said it’s also important for runners to “stay in your race,” since the obstacles can be distracting.
Steeplechase isn’t a sanctioned high school event in Colorado, so Roebke sometimes has to be resourceful when it comes to training. She has a natural ally in Kelly Christensen, who won the men’s NCAA Division II 3,000m steeplechase championship in 2003, and has been a “big help” to Roebke as she honed her steeplechasing skills.