Before the '07-'08 track season, North Dakota's Laura Roesler was already a growing legend in her home state. As a freshman Roesler won quadruple gold at her state track and field championships, winning the 100, 200, 400 and 800m dash events. Despite the success, Roesler wasn't as well known outside her state, but it seemed it was only a matter of time.
A strong fall led to an ever impressive spring, one that saw Roesler win four more state titles, but then go on a tear at 800m, lowering her time dramatically and reaching into U.S. top ten all-time status. The capping point on the season came at the Olympic Trials, an event that saw Roesler make the semi-finals and become one of the crowd favorites amongst a field of professional runners. This is the story of her season.
(pictures below by Richard Svaleson & Scott Bush)
It's rare for an athlete to four events at a state meet in the same year. It's even more rare that an eighth grader does it and then continues that streak for the next two years after. Take that one step further and see that eighth grader not just winning the 100m dash, but also the 200m dash, 400m dash and most impressively the 800m dash. That's an ultimate combination and something rarely seen in the sport.
That's the story of Laura Roesler. She's been on top in North Dakota since her eighth grade track season, where she won all four events. While few people outside the state knew who she was, the Fargo South High School athlete was quickly building a reputation as the best North Dakota trackster of all time.
"I first got into track when I was very little and doing summer camps," Roesler states, "I had a great eighth grade track season and that was a big changing point for me and my track career."
Confidence, hard work, talent and a supportive network of family, coaches and friends, have helped Roesler go from one of the best in state history to one of the best in the country, pushing into the U.S. top ten for 800 meters and making the Olympic Trials semi-final. However, it didn't come that easily and it certainly didn't come overnight, but it all changed going into her sophomore track season.
Roesler's sophomore cross country campaign finished in similar fashion to her freshman year, ending with a state title. While she only beat runner-up finisher Melanie Funke by two seconds, she did help her team earn a top three finish. Later in the fall she helped her team finish sixth overall in the Nike Team Nationals Heartland Regional, placing 35th overall, being the fourth runner on her team. While she didn't have her best race at the NTN Regional, she took the positives out of the season and started looking forward to the track season ahead.
Expectations were high in the spring. Helping her team win a state track title, earning another four individual titles and setting new personal bests were all part of the plan. Whie Roesler showed promise as a freshman in the 800m dash, keeping her fresh in the event throughout the year meant running the race rarely and focusing on building strength and speed through workouts and shorter races.
As the season progressed Roesler continued her dominating track results, winning race after race. Her breakthrough race at 800m came at the Fargo Classic in early-May, where she won unchallenged in 2:05.68. That performance changed everything and the focus now was on trying to do well at state and perhaps make the Olympic Trials.
After dominating state competition, guiding her team to a championship and winning the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m events for the third straight year, the planning now begun to get Roesler into the best situation possible to qualify for the Trials. A tune-up of sorts took place at the Dakota Elite Championships, which saw the sophomore run 2:04.96 to win easily.
The next step was traveling to southern California to take part in the Jim Bush Invitational. At Jim Bush Roesler would face elite level competition, seeing many competitors that would be at the Olympic Trials. With warmer weather, strong competition and a peak in her training all working for her, Roesler showed the nation what she could do. Roesler didn't win her race, but she set a new personal best of 2:03.08 and moved into the U.S. top ten all-time in the event.
Dropping time week after week, performance after performance had some wondering just how low could she go with her 800m time. Roesler's Jim Bush performance not only earned her national recognition for becoming one of the best ever in the event, not only did it earn her a new PR, but it qualified her for the Olympic Trials. Mission accomplished, but now it was time to look forward to the Trials and see just how far she could take this magical ride.
And on to the Olympic Trials Roesler traveled. With over a half dozen high school athletes competing in the Trials, the pressure Roesler may have faced was pointed more towards such athletes as Chanelle Price and Jordan Hasay. With a more relaxed atmosphere swirling around the sophomore, she was able to focus more on the task at hand rather than perhaps worry about the outside pressure.
The quarter-final round, the first round of the 800m dash, saw Roesler start out in good position. She sat near the back of the pack, testing out the field and slowly moving up throughout the race. With 300 meters to go Roesler moved up to mid-pack, stearing clear of traffic and showing some maturity as she waited for the final turn to come.
Off the final turn Roesler seemed to shoot out of a cannon. She moved up to fifth and then fourth, holding onto the fourth spot and automatically qualifying for the semi-final. The crowd rose to their feet, cheering wildly, knowing that what she was accomplishing was something seen only on such rare occassions. With the fan support of an entire stadium, Roesler ran yet another sub-2:05 effort, this time finishing in 2:04.03 and showing she belonged with the top half-milers in the country.
With step one complete, Roesler needed to rest up and regroup before day two of the Trials, which would see her compete in the semi-final. Right from the gun Roesler looked a little tired. She dropped to the back of the pack and ran a stride or two off of seventh place. With 300 meters to go Roesler once again tried to respond, but this time the rest of the field shifted and she was left staring at the backs of everyone else, heading down the homestretch to a 2:06.82 eighth place finish.
Afterward Roesler stated, "My main goal was to make it to the semi-final round and just see what happened after that. I was hoping to PR, but I am very happy with how I did knowing I was running in the Olympic Trials."
Roesler's success not only brought a newfound strength in her running, but a newfound fame that perhaps she didn't expect. Walking down in the Fan Festival outside the stadium numerous children, teens and adults alike stopped and starred at the newest star of the Olympic Trials as Roesler walked by. It's a rare treat for a prep athlete to do so well at the Olympic Trials, it's even more rare that a sophomore can accomplish so much. Despite such age difference and experience difference with other athletes in the field, it seemed as though Roesler knew she now belonged to an elite group.
"It was very exciting knowing how experienced those athletes were and knowing I would learn a lot from them," she says, "It was also different knowing I was running with past and future Olympians, but gives me motivation to stay with my training and set my goals high."
With such a hyper-successful season behind her, Roesler took a little down time before getting back into the daily grind of distance running, preparing for cross country. Last season her team finished second in the North Dakota State Cross Country Championships, losing to state champion Bismark High School by a mere three points. With five of their top seven returning, things look good for Fargo South this fall.
"Our team is looking very young, but very talented. We lost two of our top scorers from last year, but with a few younger girls stepping up I think we will have another strong team this year as well," she says.
While cross country is the main focus currently, one can't help thinking ahead to next track season, a season that will see Roesler shoot for higher goals and building upon her new national success. With such dramatic improvements in 2008, could 2009 be equally as dramatic?
"I haven't really thought about next track season too much yet," Roesler says, "As for getting to the next level, I might start doing more training in the winter instead of playing basketball."
And so it goes. The talented sophomore now becomes the experienced junior. Expectations are raised, national exposure is now a full-blown reality and all eyes will start focusing to the northern part of the center of the U.S. next spring when Roesler once again races towards new goals, another four state titles and simply giving her best each and every time she steps on the track.
A Quick Q&A w/ Laura Roesler
MileSplit (MS): You had a great season that included four state titles, ranging from 100m to 800m. You seem to have a lot of speed. Was it the long term plan this year to go after qualifying for the Olympic Trials in the 800m dash?
Laura Roesler (LR): Yes, it was kind of the goal after I ran my 2:05. It wasn't a for sure thing, but we definitely wanted to go if we got the opportunity and I could drop my time a little more.
MS: Chanelle Price [of Pennsylvania] had an excellent year as well in the 800m dash. What was it like having Chanelle taking the same steps you were to run alongside some of the best pro runners in the nation and reaching the top times in high school history?
LR: It was a lot easier knowing someone else was in my same position. She had an awesome year and is definitely someone I look up to. I just hope I can keep improving and running well.
MS: Did you do much sprint and speed work during the season, especially considering you ran many 100, 200 and 400m races?
LR: I do sometimes, but mostly I just run my middle distance workouts, which are very fast anyways, so it is pretty much speed work.
MS: Does your workout routine involve any weight work or core work?
LR: We do a lot of core work with our team, which really helps. I don't do any weight work but it is an option.
MS: It seems like you have a little relationship with some of the North Dakota State athletes, especially Olympic Trials 800m finalist Laura Hermanson. What's your relationship with them?
LR: Just watching some of their college meets and having them in town is our relationship. My sister will also be attending NDSU next year and will be competing on the track team. I also raced against Laura this year at the Jim Bush [Invitational].
MS: Could you tell us a little bit about Fargo, ND?
LR: It's a very good size, not too small, but not too big. Everyone is very nice and supportive. The only bad thing is that our winters are very long and freezing cold!
The MileSplit Quick Six
MS: Favorite band?
LR: Rascal Flats and the Jonas Brothers
MS: Any hobbies?
LR: Rollerblading and piano
MS: What kind of training shoes do you have?
LR: Saucony and Nike
MS: Favorite movie?
LR: August Rush
MS: Favorite athlete?
LR: Sanya Richards
MS: Favorite quote?
LR: "We are what we repeatedly do, excellence the is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle