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Kevin Schnepf, Published May 02 2010

Schnepf: My Howard Wood run nothing like Roesler’s

I once ran in the prestigious Howard Wood Dakota Relays in Sioux Falls, S.D. – but not nearly as fast as Fargo South High School sensation Laura Roesler did Friday in the same meet.

Let me set up yet another chapter of Roesler’s amazing track career by first telling you about my inability to gracefully circle a track with my size-12 feet, the era in which it occurred and the impressive longevity of the Howard Wood Relays.

I was a 5-foot-8, 135-pound senior (lugging those size 12s around) who was a member of the two-mile relay from West Lyon High School – located in Iowa about a marathon’s distance (26.2 miles) from Sioux Falls. Because I more than likely ran my two-lap leg at a marathon pace, our relay team did not come close to placing at the 1973 Howard Wood Relays.

Done running and waiting for our teammates to compete, my running buddies and I headed to the Howard Wood Stadium grandstand. We quickly dove into the paper-bag lunches our moms packed with bologna sandwiches and Twinkies.

Back in that era – one closer to the Truman presidency than it was to the Obama regime – we had no iPods to listen to a little Three Dog Night. We had no cell phones to text our friends back home with clever abbreviations for “groovy” and “far out.” No, the next couple of hours were actually spent watching the track meet.

With the white cream of the Twinkies plastered on our faces, we watched the boys mile relay team from Sioux Falls Lincoln set a meet record that still stands today. We watched one of those relay runners set a mile run meet record that still stands today.

We had no idea we were watching history in the making. We had no idea that these Howard Wood Relays have been capturing the fascination of the Sioux Valley track fanatics since 1923.

Friday, in the 86th running of the Howard Wood Relays, I’m sure the fans packing the grandstand had a good idea what they were witnessing when they saw Roesler win the 800 meters in a time of 2 minutes, 5.76 seconds.

Allow me to put that time into a little context for you: it’s the fastest time run by a high school girl across the nation this year; it broke the Howard Wood Stadium record – and that includes collegiate times – by more than a second; it topped the meet record by nearly five seconds.

Running in her first outdoor 800 this season, it wasn’t even a personal best for Roesler. But it was good enough for the Howard Wood fans to give her a standing ovation – fans who have gotten to know Roesler who in the previous two years has won the 200 and 400 at Howard Wood.

Nobody has ever won so many special events at the Howard Wood Relays. No wonder she’s going to run at the University of Oregon – where fans appreciate track as lividly as anyone in the world.

So just in case you don’t know how fast Roesler really runs, chew on this: my best time in the 800 was about 10 seconds slower. Had I been racing against her back in 1973, I’d be rounding the final curve as she was crossing the finish line. The only thing I would have had on Laura Roesler was my big feet.


Readers can reach Forum sports editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549 or kschnepf@forumcomm.com