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Published May 27 2010

Fitting finish: Fargo South’s Laura Roesler poised to become most decorated prep track athlete in ND history

Laura Roesler began her high school track and field career in an old, baggy Fargo South junior varsity uniform in 2005.

It was a terrible fit. Although, nobody could have known at the time that Roesler would eventually become one of the most decorated track and field athletes in North Dakota history.

Roesler was a seventh-grader. The perfectly fitted Bruins uniforms were earmarked for the varsity.

That’s just the way it was.

But Bruins girls track and field coach Cory Lehman knew the ill-fitting garb was only temporary.

“She was a valuable piece of our team when she was in seventh grade,” said Lehman, who coached Roesler for a year before becoming South’s activities director. “The struggle for us was to decide what this seventh-grader was going to compete in. We had never had anything come around with that kind of package. She had the ability to do anything from the 100 meters to the 1,600 meters.

“It was a blessing and a curse.”

Well, more of a blessing.

With four wins at this weekend’s state meet in Bismarck, Roesler can finish her career with a record 21 individual titles. She’s earned four state crowns in each of the past four seasons. Former Carrington standout Whitney Carlson finished with 17 individual and 19 total state championships.

The North Dakota state track and field meet is scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Community Bowl.

Roesler hasn’t lost in North Dakota prep competition since seventh grade en route to numerous event titles, she’s set three state meet records, exploded onto the national scene with a surprise performance at the Olympic Trials as a 16-year-old prep sophomore and earned a college scholarship to track and field power Oregon.

It’s been a long and successful journey to the finish line.

“In a way, there is part of me that doesn’t want it to end because it’s been so fun and I like running,” said Roesler, who has the top prep 800 time in the nation this year at 2 minutes, 5.76 seconds. “But, more than anything, I’m ready to be done and start the real deal. (High school) is kind of like the intro.”

Roesler’s introduction to local track and field fans came at the East Region meet on May 21, 2005.

An excited crowd rose to its feet as a tiny, shy seventh-grade Roesler upset two-time defending Class A state champion Allie Smith of Wahpeton in the 400.

Roesler, who finished second at the state cross country meet a few months earlier, surprised Smith with a gritty final 50 meters.

It seems like so long ago now. And that winning moment is still a blur.

“I remember watching it on video because my dad videotaped it,” Roesler said. “We couldn’t see anything because everybody was standing up. All you could hear was the ‘Ooh’ from the very end of the race.

“Later in the day I ran the 200 – and (Smith) smoked me.”

A few days later, Roesler wrote the first chapter in her track and field legacy with a win in the 400 at the state meet. She took fifth in the 800, which has become Roesler’s signature event.

She advanced to the 800 semifinals at the Olympic Trials in 2008.

Roesler said it wasn’t until after her eighth-grade year, after she became the first person – boy or girl – to win individual state titles in the 100, 200, 400 and 800 in one season, she began to feel pressure to perform up to other people’s expectations.

Her parents felt it, too.

“People were expecting 40 points from her every time,” said Lynn Roesler, Laura’s father and a former North Dakota State wrestler. “People that understand track understand that it’s really hard to do that. And they appreciate the effort.”

Laura’s been able to push aside any pressure or negativity.

Expectations? She already expects plenty of herself on the track.

Laura’s had the national high school 800 record of 2:00.07 written in sharpie on a whiteboard in her bedroom for several months as a constant reminder that there is much more to accomplish.

And when Laura finished 50th at the state cross country meet as a junior after a strenuous summer running schedule, she responded to whispers that she may be burning out with four more track titles.

“Once in a while, when you walked by in the halls, you would hear people that you didn’t even know say: ‘She had such a bad cross country season. She might be wearing out,’ ” said twin brother Kyle. “They don’t know how she is, what she does, how hard she works at it.”

“I’m sure people were probably thinking it, doubting me a little more” said Laura, who was recently voted by her peers as the most likely of the Bruins’ senior class to qualify for the Olympics. “I just wanted to prove I’m here to stay.”

Roesler has nothing more to prove in high school.

After state, she’ll turn her attention to her freshman season at Oregon. The Ducks women finished second at last year’s NCAA Division I national outdoor meet.

Roesler’s parents, fixtures at almost all of Laura’s meets the last six years, will keep track of her online and will travel to a handful of events.

This time she’ll have the perfectly fitted varsity uniform from the beginning.

“She’s handled it very well,” Lehman said. “She is a very, very humble person, not only as an athlete, but in general. … From seventh grade to now there has been just a tremendous amount of growth.”

Roesler's amazing run at state

If Fargo South senior Laura Roesler wins four titles for a fifth straight year at this week’s North Dakota high school track meet in Bismarck, she will have accumulated 21 state championships ... surpassing the record of 17 individual titles and 19 overall titles set by Carrington’s Whitney Carlson. A look at here year-by-year finishes at state:

2005 as a seventh-grader: First place, 400 meters, 57.88 seconds; Fifth place, 800 meters, 2:20.97.

2006 as an eighth-grader: First place, 100 meters (12.40 seconds), 200 meters (25.07 seconds), 400 meters (57.67 seconds), 800 meters (2:20.53).

2007 as a freshman: First place, 100 meters (12.90 seconds), 200 meters (25.75 seconds), 400 meters (55.56 seconds), 800 meters (2:17.11).

2008 as a sophomore: First place, 100 meters (12.07 seconds), 200 meters (24.30 seconds), 400 meters (55.76 seconds), 800 meters (2:10.78).

2009 as a junior: First place, 100 meters (12.45 seconds), 200 meters (25.16 seconds), 400 meters (55.10 seconds), 800 meters (2:13.92).

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562