Roesler aims for Rio Olympics, now a true contender in bid to run track's pinnacle event
FARGO—Lynn Roesler is retiring later this week after 35 years at Bobcat Company and then driving more than 20 hours to Oregon.
The trip is to watch his daughter, Laura, chase her own milestone, one that would mark the peak—so far—of a running career already studded with success.
The Fargo native will be trying to make the U.S. Team for the Summer Olympics, which are scheduled for August in Rio de Janeiro. The U.S. Olympic Trials for Track and Field start Friday, July 1, at historic Hayward Field in Eugene.
Laura Roesler, a Fargo South graduate, is among the top contenders to make the U.S. Team in the women's 800 meters.
"That would cap off a pretty emotional week," her father said. "That would be the best gift I could ever have is to make plans to travel to Rio. That would be awesome."
The 24-year-old Roesler, a former Oregon Ducks track star, will be competing in her third Olympic Trials. If she finishes in the top three in the 800, she will make the U.S. Team, having already run the Olympic qualifying standard time of 2 minutes, 1.5 seconds. Her best time this season is 2:00.15. Her career best time is 1:59.04.
"It's definitely a top goal," Laura said.
Laura has a different mentality heading into the her third trials. The previous two (2008 and 2012) were also at Hayward Field, which was her home track when she ran for Oregon.
"This time I feel like more of a contender," she said. "Those two times before, I was just another person in the field."
Laura won 20 individual North Dakota Class A state track championships while at South. She followed that with 17 NCAA Division I All-American honors at Oregon, the most by any female track athlete in program history.
"Now she's ready to race with the big girls at the World-Class level," said Rose Monday, Laura's coach.
"It all built me up to this moment," Laura said of her journey. "They all mattered."
Laura has to navigate three 800 races in four days against a deep field to make the U.S. Team. The first round is scheduled for Friday with 16 runners advancing to the semifinals, which are set for Saturday, July 2. Eight runners make the finals, which are Monday, July 4. The top three in that final, who have run the Olympic standard time, earn a spot on the U.S. Team.
"The 800 field is loaded," said Karen Roesler, Laura's mom. "The United States, any Olympic team, is so hard to make."
Runners like Alysia Montano, Ajee Wilson and Brenda Martinez are among the favorites to make the Olympic team in the women's 800. Wilson has the top time heading into the event at 1:57.87. Martinez won a bronze medal in the 800 at the World Championships in 2013. A six-time U.S. Outdoor champion, Montano is the defending United States champion in the event.
Laura is ranked No. 4 in the U.S. in the 800, according to the July issue of Track & Field News magazine. Montano, Wilson and Martinez are ranked ahead of Laura on that top-10 list.
"I've been focused on being ready to go first round," Laura said. "You can't mess around and try to save for the semifinal because you'll be watching it from the stands."
Roesler last competed in Birmingham, England, on June 5 in a Diamond League event that featured top runners for around the world. She ran a 2:01.54 in that race and finished in ninth place against a strong field. Burundi's Francine Niyonsaba won in a time of 1:56.92.
That race featured a fast pace in the first 400 meters, Laura said, and she wasn't able to finish strong in the final 100. However, she added it was an important step in preparing for the trials, even though she didn't finish as strong as she would have liked.
"The next time I go out fast, it won't feel as hard," Laura said. "My body will recognize that I've done it before. It was a good test, a good shock to the system."
Monday said the approach for Laura heading into the trials is simple: "Control the controllables."
"Her speed is there and her strength is better than it's ever been in her life and she knows that," Monday said.
Laura has come back strong this year, after missing most of 2015 with a partially torn right Achilles tendon.
"I'm very grateful because after her season last year ... you know how quickly life can change," Karen said. "Running is what Laura does, it's not who she is. I think that's the thing you always got to keep in perspective."
Lynn said he will be more nervous than Laura, while watching from the stands with Karen and their son, Kyle. One of the most memorable victories in Laura's track career came at Hayward Field. She won the 2014 NCAA Division I outdoor national championship in the 800 at Hayward, while running for Oregon.
"You want Laura to perform at her best," Lynn said. "And if her best is good enough to get her in, that's awesome."
Laura plans to travel to Eugene on Wednesday, June 29, a couple days ahead of her first round of competition. She expects to be nervous before she races, like most if not every athlete, and doesn't think that is a bad thing.
"I always know that the nerves are going to go away the second the gun goes off and that's always what happens," Laura said. "I know there is a good type of nerves ... because with nerves I think come adrenaline and that can only help when competing."
How to watch
What: U.S. Olympic Trials for Track and Field at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.
When: July 1-10
TV: The women's 800 final is scheduled to be broadcast on NBC Sports on July 4. TV coverage that day starts at 6 p.m. with the women's 800 final scheduled for 7:42 p.m.