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Fargo South standout Roesler is back after nearly walking away from professional running

Laura Roesler places fourth in the women's 800m heat in 2:03.46 during the USATF Distance Classic at Occidental College in Los Angeles on May 17. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

DES MOINES, Iowa—It was Laura Roesler's third Olympic Trials. Her best run in the 800 meters that season ranked sixth in the country. The Fargo South graduate and former Oregon Ducks track star was running at Hayward Field, her home track when she ran for Oregon. She had won an NCAA championship in the 800 on that track two years previous.

But on July 1, 2016, Roesler finished fourth in her heat, 20th among the 38 runners, and again missed out on the Olympics. It was the first time she did not make the semifinals of the Olympic Trials.

"It was a huge letdown. I was very upset," Roesler said Wednesday, June 20. "All that hard work didn't come together the right way on the right day. Of course your mind immediately goes to the extreme. Maybe I should just be done. Maybe I'm not cut out for this. That comes from the heartbreak."

Roesler decided to step away from running. She had not stopped since her first high school cross country season at 12 years old, winning 20 individual North Dakota Class A state titles and 17 Division I All-American honors at Oregon along the way. In those days, she was just thinking about beating anyone in front of her and scoring points for her team.

Now she found herself alone, running for sponsors. The pressure that came built up, along with a lingering achilles injury. The fun was gone. She was 24 years old, and she wasn't sure she would ever run again.

"I honestly didn't know when I was going to come back," Roesler said. "I had many conversations with my coach and parents, and they were in full support of me stepping away."

She did things she'd never do while training like water skiing, tubing, playing pickleball with her parents and going on 10-mile bike rides. Most of these things she had to stay away from for fear of injury.

"I got to do things that normal people wouldn't think twice about doing," Roesler said. "Runners just have a different mindset. The life we live is definitely abnormal. It was fun to be carefree. It was important to step away, and it took awhile for the hunger to come back."

For three months, she was completely away from any training. After the Olympic Trials in July 2016, Roesler didn't race again until spring 2017.

"I really learned just how to enjoy it again," Roesler said ."Honestly, it kind of reminded me why I started running in the first place. It is high pressure and a very intense lifestyle, and sometimes you can get caught up in the need to perform and try to run fast. If you're not having fun while you're doing it, then you won't perform."

Roesler will run in the U.S. Track and Field Outdoor Championships on Thursday at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa. She will run in the first round of the 800 at 2:20 p.m., and she'll head to Europe for more competitions throughout the summer.

"I'm excited," Roesler said. "I'm ready to race again. I haven't raced (at Drake Stadium) since 2013, and I do like running on the track and feel at home in the Midwest. I'm excited instead of feeling pressure. I'm just excited, and I want to run fast and turn left as they say."

When she was 12, she never imagined running would take her all over the world or into the North Dakota Sports Hall of Fame, as it did Saturday. She was just running after the person in front of her.

It took a walk away from the track to find her need to run.

"When I started running, I was just running to win," Roesler said. "That's all I wanted to do. I just wanted to beat everyone all the time, and that was my only goal. I don't think until senior year of high school did I think we'll keep riding this train as far as it takes us. I never would've imagined it would ever take me as far as it has."

Chris Murphy

Chris Murphy is a sports reporter for the Forum. He's covered high school and college sports in Chicago, North Dakota and Minnesota since 2009 and, for some reason, has been given awards for doing so.

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