FARGO — When Laura Roesler crossed the finish line at historic Hayward Field six years ago, the Fargo South graduate described the moment as the “pinnacle” to that point of her decorated track and field career.
Roesler raced away from the field, receiving a loud ovation as she crossed the finish line to win the women’s 800 meters June 13, 2014, at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships. Roesler was then a senior at the University of Oregon and won an elusive outdoor individual national championship in her final individual race for the Ducks.
The big moment played out on her college home track before 10,104 fans.
“It kind of felt like that’s the homestretch I’ve been training for my whole life up until that point,” said Roesler, now a professional runner who trains out of Jacksonville, Fla.
This year’s Division I Outdoor Championships would have concluded this weekend, but were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, which also pushed back the 2020 Summer Olympics that were scheduled for Tokyo later this summer. Roesler was hoping to make an Olympic bid in the 800.
Roesler completed her Oregon career as the most decorated female track athlete in program history with 17 All-American honors. She has fond memories of her final NCAA Outdoors on the sixth anniversary of the event.
“It just was really special,” Roesler said. “It’s something I definitely won’t forget. I have lots of fond memories and feelings when I think about my time at Oregon and I think about Hayward Field.”
Roesler won her primary event that day with a time of 2 minutes, 1.22 seconds, around 10 meters ahead of the second-place Claudia Sanders, a sophomore at Stanford whose time was 2:02.92. At the time, Roesler’s margin of victory was the largest in the women’s 800 at the NCAA Outdoors since 2001.
“I was probably more relieved for her than anything because I knew how badly she wanted it,” said Lynn Roesler, Laura’s father, in remembering that big day. “You always want your kid to come away satisfied with their performance. I knew that she wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than first place in that race.”
- Roesler wins women's 800 national title at NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships
- From Fargo South to Oregon, standout runner Laura Roesler has achieved 'mythical status'
- Roesler caps her NCAA track career with another All-American honor
- Hayward Field has a grandness about it thanks to its unique history
Laura had a cheering section of around 40 friends and family, including her mom, Karen, older sister, Emily, and twin brother, Kyle, along with Lynn. Many in that group wore bright green neon shirts and were seated in the grandstand on the homestretch.
“That homestretch was just kind of a lot of emotions and a lot of hard work coming to an ending point. It was a loud and long homestretch,” Laura said.
After she crossed the finish line, she made the trademark Oregon “O” with her hands to show her appreciation to the crowd.
“My immediate emotion was relief because you train all year for that moment,” Laura said. “It was also something I wanted for a really long time.”
Laura’s 800 national title wasn’t without drama. She got tangled up with other runners on the back straightaway of the final lap and nearly lost her footing. Moments later, she bolted into the lead with a powerful kick over the final 200 meters.
“It was kind of nerve wracking,” Karen said of watching Laura getting bottled up with other runners. “I remember my heart kind of falling down to my toes.”
Laura said the plan was to start her kick with around 120 meters remaining, but that changed after she nearly lost her footing.
“I kind of went,” Roesler recalled. “I was not risking getting tripped again. So that was that.”
Roesler remembers how anxious she was during the day leading up to the 800 finals, waiting at the team hotel that morning before she headed to the track.
“I was so nervous ready for the day to be over with,” said Laura, who capped her NCAA career the day after the 800 title, running on the Ducks 1,600 relay team that finished third. “We get so nervous, but the second the gun goes off all that just goes away.”
Karen added: “We always told her the same thing. Run fast, turn left, have fun, especially today. This is the end.”
Laura said the most nerves she ever felt was at the 2010 North Dakota Class A state track meet during her senior season at South. She won three individual state titles that day to cap her career with a record 20 individual state crowns. She won the 200, 400 and 800, while finishing second in the 100. Minot freshman Morgan Milbrath edged Roesler in the 100, after Roesler had won that event at the previous four state meets.
“That was the most nervous I was in all of high school, possibly all of my life ever,” Laura said. “When I think back on it now, I was being absolutely ridiculous. Why was I that nervous? I was putting pressure on myself.”
Laura said her 800 outdoor championship during her senior year at Oregon is among the top highlights or her track career. That was her first individual outdoor title of her NCAA career.
“She has been in the limelight for many, many years and I always thought she carried herself well on and off the track,” Karen said. “We’re very proud of her.”