FARGO — Laura Roesler wanted to chase her Olympic dream this summer, but the Fargo South graduate’s health didn’t cooperate.
Roesler isn't competing in the U.S. Olympic Trials for track and field, which started Friday, June 18, at newly renovated Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. That’s also where Roesler was a 17-time NCAA All-American and a Division I women's 800 meters outdoor national champion in 2014 for the Oregon Ducks.
The first round of the women’s 800, Roesler’s specialty, is scheduled for Thursday, June 24, at the trials. The finals in that event are set for Sunday, June 27. The 29-year-old Roesler said a nagging Achilles injury hasn’t allowed her to prepare properly for what would have been her fourth Olympic trials.
“I have not been able this year to train at the level required to compete at the professional level and at an Olympic trials,” said Roesler, who trains out of Jacksonville, Fla. “I know the level I need to be training at and the form I need to be in to make a team. I just wasn’t there. … It would have been my fourth Olympic trials, which would have been pretty cool, but life has other plans.”
Roesler said she’s been struggling with the health of both her Achilles for most of her pro career, including micro tears and tendinitis. Roesler added she’s never ruptured either of her Achilles, which would require surgery, but the multiple flare ups have been difficult to navigate through as a pro.
“A lot of pain, unending excruciating pain,” said Roesler, who turned pro in 2014 after her highly decorated career at Oregon. “It’s kind of hard to train, when every step, that’s the only thing going through your mind.”
Roesler was 16 years old in 2008 when she competed in the women’s 800 at her first Olympic trials. She also competed in the event in 2012 and 2016. The 2020 trials were pushed back a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Roesler said her last competitive race was at the USATF Indoor Championships in February of 2019, and the last time she raced in an outdoor 800 was in July of 2018 in Sweden.
“I’ve been itching to race for a really long time, so it’s been really disappointing and pretty disheartening,” said Roesler, who is coached by Rose Monday who is also the head coach for the U.S. women’s track and field team for the Tokyo Olympics that start in late July.
Roesler said she’s had platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections to promote accelerated healing with her Achilles issues and those have been helpful, but not provided permanent relief.
“For whatever reason the Achilles has continued to flare up,” she said.
Roesler said one frustration is she's met with multiple medical professionals and there haven't been any real answers to why it keeps happening.
"I've been told by many different doctors, specialists, therapists, structurally, my body is fine, my Achilles is fine," she said. "My lower legs are firing the way they should be and I've done all the physical therapy every day in the last six-plus years. ... Unfortunately, it just hasn’t been enough.”
In May of 2020, Roesler said she had a PRP injection for her left Achilles. However, around December of 2020, her Achilles flared up again heading into 2021. She trained until this past March, but that’s when Roesler said she reached her "breaking point" and had to take a step back from training.
“That was for my overall well-being,” Roesler said. “I had just been fighting my body and focusing on being in so much pain every day for so long I was just kind of drained.”
In late April, Roesler said she tried to start training again on an elliptical machine, but she wasn’t in a position to have a proper buildup to the trials.
“I just had lost so much time,” Roesler said. “To compete in the Trials in the United States where a lot of those events end up being stronger than even an Olympic final, you have to be firing on all cylinders. … I can tell you now I’m happy I listened to my body, because I’m healthy and I have started running again and I’m pain-free running. I just ran out of time.”
Roesler has tried to find the positive during her down time.
“Not everything can go my way and it’s really given me a chance to reflect and look back on everything,” she said. “I’ve actually been lucky with my body, especially for how long I’ve been running. … It’s given me a chance to be grateful for everything I’ve gotten to do and everything I’ve accomplished.”
Roesler plans to watch the trials and Summer Olympics, even though she admits that could be difficult.
“I love this sport,” Roesler said. “I’m always going to be a fan. I think there’s something beautiful about people running, jumping, throwing at the limit of what a human can do. It’s going to be hard to watch, but I still have people I’m rooting for, previous teammates I want to do well, great performances still excite me so I’m going to watch.”
Roesler said her experience and maturity would have played in her favor had she been able to compete at this summer’s trials.
“I’m missing that one piece of the puzzle that is being healthy,” she said.
Roesler added she’s grateful for the support she’s received from the Fargo-Moorhead community, the state of North Dakota and friends and family throughout her track career.
“It has never gone unnoticed and it’s always been appreciated,” she said.
Roesler hasn’t given up on her professional career, but also isn’t setting a timetable to return to competition.
“I’ve dreamt about making an Olympic team since forever,” Roesler said. “I wake up every day wanting that. It’s something you can't necessarily just switch off. I’ve got to try to handle life’s curveballs the best I can.”