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Kevin Schnepf, Published June 04 2013

Schnepf: South's Roesler has hope at Hayward Field

Fargo - Ken Goe has been writing about Oregon track and field since the 1980s. He’s had plenty to write about.

That’s because track is king in Eugene, Ore., which has earned the moniker “Tracktown, USA.” It’s home to Hayward Field, where more than 11,000 fans fill the historic, covered grandstand to cheer on their beloved Ducks.

Today, they will be cheering Fargo’s own Laura Roesler during the 800-meter semifinals of the NCAA Division I Track and Field Championships. Roesler – appropriately pronounced “Race-ler” – has one of the fastest times in this event.

“She is not favored to win it,” said Goe, the Oregon track beat writer for the Oregonian newspaper. “But Oregon athletes tend to excel and do things they wouldn’t do anywhere else when they run at Hayward.”

This marks the 11th time Hayward is hosting the NCAA Championships. The last time was in 2010 – the year Roesler was capping off one of the most remarkable high school track careers in North Dakota history.

By winning the 200, 400 and 800 meters at the 2010 state meet, Roesler finished her Fargo South career with a state-record 20 individual titles. It was obvious why Oregon recruited her.

“She clearly is a phenomenal talent,” USA Track and Field coach Rose Monday said at that 2010 state meet. “She has the capability of being one of the best 800 runners this country has.”

It’s taken the last three years for Roesler to live up to those accolades. As talented as she was, Roesler became just another runner at tradition-rich Oregon.

“That sounds strange for someone who ran in the Olympic Trials as a high school sophomore,” Goe said of Roesler. “But you never know with kids who have that kind of success in high school, if it will carry over to college.

“Sometimes their bodies change. Sometimes track and field doesn’t maintain that focus in a young person’s life. Those were certainly questions for her coming in … but I think she has answered that.”

Goe remembers a shy Roesler when she first came to Oregon. Once nervous to be interviewed, Roesler is now relaxed, confident and articulate when she gets interviewed.

The same level of confidence has now appeared on the track, especially after two big races in the last three months.

At the NCAA Indoor, Roesler placed second in the 800 – breaking up the Louisiana State tandem of Natoya Goule and Charlene Lipsey and boosting the Ducks to their fourth straight indoor title.

Then last month at the Mt. SAC Relays in California, Roesler ran the 800 of her life. She started alongside five Olympians, a world championship bronze medalist and a Pan American Games gold medalist.

The only college athlete in the race, Roesler won in 2 minutes, 1.75 seconds – the second-best time run on the college level this season and No. 4 on the all-time Oregon list.

“I think that race really opened people’s eyes,” Goe said. “She reached the elite level. That said, she is an elite-level runner, but still has a ways to go if she wants to be at the top of the elite.”

With her newfound confidence, Roesler is no longer running not to lose, but to win. Working out with Oregon sprinters helped her win a second straight Pac-12 Conference 800 title last month. It is also a reason she is a member of Oregon’s 1,600 relay team that is favored to win a national title this week.

“Her speed is an attribute … she is really fast,” Goe said of Roesler, whose 2:01.75 time is second-best only to Goule’s 2:00.76. “Laura has to be near the lead with 200 meters to go in order to win it. She has to be in a position to use her kick.”

That kick just may get a boost from the Hayward Field crowd. Goe remembers the Hayward throng cheering on three 800 male runners from Eugene who unexpectedly won the top three spots at the 2008 Olympic Trials. He remembers the Hayward crowd going nuts when Oregon graduate Ashton Eaton set a world record in last summer’s Olympic Trials decathlon.

“There can be some crazy finishes … you can just hear the crowd take over races,” Goe said. “That could happen again this week.”

And it could very well be Hayward Field roaring its approval for Laura Roesler.

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

or kschnepf@forumcomm.com