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Mike Malloy / Special to The Forum, Published June 26 2010

USA Outdoor: Roesler finishes 2nd in 800-meter finals

DES MOINES, Iowa – Had it been an 801-meter race, Laura Roesler likely would have won. As it was, the Fargo South graduate was second Friday in the women’s junior 800-meter run at the 2010 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Roesler was last halfway through the race but turned it on in the second lap around Drake Stadium’s blue oval and nearly caught winner high schooler Ajee Wilson. Roesler moved past Stephanie Brown, of Arkansas University who finished third in 2:06.11, on the final turn and nearly ran down Wilson, who’d bolted from the start to win in 2:05.75.

“Coach says I can’t get boxed in. I’ve got to go,” Wilson said.

Roesler finished in 2:05.80.

“I wanted to go with (Wilson), but I really didn’t do that. The pace scared me, and you can’t do that because (at this meet) everyone is fast,” Roesler said. “(Wilson) was speeding up, Steph was pressing me. It could have gone all three ways.”

Roesler, sporting her trademark pink fingernails, admitted to some doubts going in.

“I shouldn’t have been thinking this, but getting up to the line I was thinking I was OK with second,” she said.

Second was unheard of in high school where Roesler, who will run for the University of Oregon next spring, won a individual state titles. Races that were over before they started highlighted her prep career, but Roesler relished the chance to run shoulder-to-shoulder with other elite athletes Friday.

“Every race will be that close next year,” she said. “It was fun.”

Despite being an overwhelming favorite in last month’s state high school meet, Roesler said that meet was the most pressured she’d ever felt. That pressure built after she qualified for the Olympic Trials following her sophomore year and continued that fall.

“My junior cross country year went really bad. I was in really good shape, but the mental part was the toughest part for me,” Roesler said. “Everyone knows who you are.”

Roesler hopes to finish in the top eight at the World Junior Meet, but in the immediate aftermath of Friday’s race her only desires were for ice and air conditioning.

“My feet are on fire,” she said.

Temperatures in the mid-80s did not slow Ellie Grooters who surprised herself with a fourth-place finish in the preliminary women’s junior 400-meter hurdles. The recent West Fargo graduate advanced to today’s final with a time of 59.82 seconds.

“To go sub-60 was a surprise, a big surprise,” Grooters said.

This was Grooters third time in the national meet, and second time she’s advanced to the final.

“Experience and good training all summer gave me confidence,” Grooters said. “It’s been hot all summer. I trained in the heat so I knew I could do it.”

Grooters, who has signed with Nebraska, had to make the mental and physical adjustment from running 300-meter hurdles, which is the standard in North Dakota high school competition.

“Even though it’s only 100 (longer) with the hurdles it’s a lot different race, but it’s fun,” Grooters said.

Grooters won 11 state titles in a heavily medaled prep career, but said she’s just happy to be in the final eight.

“I guess it’s house money in the finals,” she said.

Kira Larson, a sophomore to be at Fargo North, did not record a height in the women’s junior high jump, missing all three attempts at 1.66 meters. Larson won a state championship as an eighth-grader, and last year won high jump in two major events last season: at the USATF Junior Olympic Championship last year and the USA Track and Field Youth championship.