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Published May 30 2010

ND state track: Roesler nets state-record 20 individual titles, but loses in 100

BISMARCK – Laura Roesler’s discomfort showed as she stood alone on the awards stand.

Roesler, the Fargo South senior track and field standout who finished her career with a state-record 20 individuals titles, could barely look up as thousands of fans listened attentively to her lengthy list of accomplishments.

The attention was a bit much for the 17-year-old.

But it would be hard to downplay a career like this.

Roesler won three events at the North Dakota state meet on Saturday, capping the most successful prep track and field career in the history of the state.

She earned wins in the 200 and 800 for the fifth year in a row, and won the 400 for the sixth consecutive season. Minot freshman Morgan Milbrath surprised the Community Bowl crowd by becoming the first athlete to top Roesler at the state meet in the 100 in Roesler’s five years of running in the event.

“When they announce it like that, it seems like a lot,” Roesler said of the acknowledgment of her career at the state meet. “I’ve just been blessed. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending than I had today.”

A University of Oregon recruit, Roesler opened the day with her second-consecutive loss in the 100. On Friday in the 100 preliminaries, Milbrath became the first North Dakota competitor to beat Roesler in any event since Roesler was in seventh grade.

It was a coming out party for Milbrath, who later pushed Roesler in the 200 and 400.

The loss ended Roesler’s attempt to earn four individual crowns in five-consecutive state meets.

“It’s all a learning experience. She ran awesome both rounds. And I’m vulnerable in that event,” Roesler said. “It’s something I can build off of and she pushed me the whole way. It was fun to have some good competition.”

Roesler won the 200 with a state-record time of 24.32.

She set a state record and ran the third-fastest prep 400 in the country with a winning time of 53.25. Milbrath ran the fourth-fastest time in the nation in the event en route to a second-place finish (53.31).

Roesler dominated the 800 with a time of 2 minutes, 17.64 seconds. West Fargo’s Ellie Grooters was second at 2:21.97.

“She’s just exceptional, outstanding, not just as a runner, but as a person,” said Laura’s older sister, Emily, who is a member of the North Dakota State track and field team. “I couldn’t be a more proud big sister. I don’t think people realize (how hard it is). They just come to expect it out of her. … Her range is just amazing.”

A large contingent of family and friends was in the stands to witness Laura’s, and twin brother Kyle’s, final prep track and field meet. Kyle, a standout sprinter for Fargo South, helped the Bruins to a pair of relay championships on Saturday.

Roesler’s parents, grandparents and several aunts and uncles filled a section at the Community Bowl.

They came from North Dakota, Iowa, Indiana, Colorado and South Dakota to watch Laura and Kyle say goodbye to their prep careers.

USA Track and Field coach Rose Monday, who coached Laura last summer at the Pan American Juniors in Trinidad, surprised Laura by attending the meet.

“She clearly is a phenomenal talent,” said Monday, whose job with USA Track and Field is to identify and help improve the elite middle distance runners in the country. “She has the capability of being one of the best 800 runners this country has.”

The Community Bowl public address announcer summed up Roesler’s record-setting career like this: “Her impressive list of accomplishments at the state track meet is nothing short of legendary.”

“I would have never thought,” Roesler said of her 20 individual titles. “It’s been a really long journey, but it’s been a lot of fun.”

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