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Oregon’s Laura Roesler crosses the finish line to win the women’s 800 meters at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Friday. Photos by David Samson / The Forum

Roesler wins women's 800 national title at NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships

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EUGENE, Ore. – Laura Roesler was spectacular in the final 200 meters Friday evening at historic Hayward Field with a burst of speed that made the Oregon senior a national champion.

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That strong kick helped Roesler pull away from the rest of the field in the women’s 800 finals at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships before 10,104 fans. The former Fargo South track star crossed the finish line in 2 minutes, 1.22 seconds about 10 meters ahead of the second-place runner.

Roesler brought the crowd in the packed west grandstand to its feet as she covered the final straightaway.

“I couldn’t have gone out any other way and with the way I ran that last 200, I gave the crowd what they wanted,” said Roesler, who also won the national title in the indoor 800 earlier this year. “It feels good to appreciate them as much as they appreciate me.”

Stanford sophomore Claudia Saunders finished second with a time of 2:02.92. Roesler’s margin of victory was the largest in the women’s 800 at the outdoor championships since 2001.

“I’ve been working on that last 100, staying composed, keeping my form, staying within myself,” said Roesler, who is now a 16-time All-American. “The crowd was so loud I couldn’t decide if it’s for me or for someone coming behind me.”

There was no need for her to worry as she had built a comfortable lead. Friday’s 800 victory was Roesler’s first outdoor individual national title and the final individual race of her NCAA career.

“How does it get any better than that?” said Lynn Roesler, Laura’s father, who was in the west grandstand near the finish line. “I think she would have been disappointed had she finished anywhere less than first,”

Laura is slated to compete in her final NCAA race today, running a leg on Oregon’s 1,600-meter relay team that is in the finals.

“I have one more race,” said Laura, who is the most decorated female track athlete in Oregon history. “This thing isn’t over yet.”

Roesler had some tense moments on the back straightaway of the final lap. She got bumped and almost lost her footing right before the final 200 meters of the race.

“I was getting tripped a little bit,” she said. “I got pretty competitive. I was like ‘Alright, play time is over.’ ”

Roesler then bolted to the front of the pack with about 200 meters remaining, and was never challenged from that point.

“It was like she was shot out of a cannon,” Lynn said. “She just went.”

Lynn estimated there were around 40 friends and family in the crowd to support Laura, including her mom, Karen, older sister, Emily, and twin brother, Kyle. Laura said it was easy to pick her cheering section out of the crowd because they were all wearing bright neon green shirts.

“They were hard to miss,” Laura said with a smile. “Not only them, but the other 10,000 people in the stands so I felt right at home.”

Moments after she crossed the finish line, Laura blew a kiss to the crowd and flashed the trademark Oregon “O” with her hands to show her appreciation.

“It was very exciting and when she was done it was kind of a relief, too, because I know how bad she wanted it,” Lynn said.

Laura ran the top time in Wednesday’s 800 semifinals, and after that, she tried not to focus on the finals until Friday.

“I had to stay off my phone, my computer,” Laura said. “I didn’t need any added stress. It was a long time coming for me.”

Oregon is in first place in the women’s team race with 43 points heading into the final day of the championships. Texas A&M is in second place with 41 points.

“I couldn’t have found this success anywhere else, and they have been setting me up for after college, too,” Laura said. “I couldn’t see myself having gone anywhere other than Oregon. They’ve treated me better than I would have ever imagined.”

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Eric Peterson
Peterson covers small college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.

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