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Former Oregon Duck and two-time NCAA 800-meter champion Laura Roesler is back this winter and racing faster than ever. After graduating from University of Oregon in 2014, Roesler faced a series of injuries that kept her out of competition for many indoor and outdoor seasons and has only recently had the opportunity to return to her home away from home on the track.
It’s been nearly five years since you graduated from University of Oregon—and you’ve essentially been injured since you left school, correct?
It’s been a string of injuries; I had never experienced one all throughout high school or college. I had a tear in my right Achilles in 2015 and missed the whole season. Then in 2016, I had a microtear in my left Achilles and ended up having both of them in pain at the [2016 Olympic] Trials. In 2017, both my Achilles had issues again, which resulted in a very short season. Early in 2018, I had issues with my calf muscle and I missed a little time, but since last spring I’ve been healthy and pain-free—and it’s been great.
Now that you’re past those injuries, you’re competing in your first indoor season in three years. On February 8, you ran the 800m in Boston in a new indoor PR of 1:59.80. Before that, you ran the 1000m on January 26 at the Dr. Sander Invitational, scoring another PR in 2:38.11. How does it feel to be back on the track, racing strong and healthy after a considerable amount of time off?
It’s just a lot of fun! I found the fun in competing again and I just love getting out the door. To be happy and running again is all I can really ask for. After so much time off from competing indoors, it’s been nice to break up the training. Fall can get to be a grind, so it’s great to get that little competitive edge back indoors. It’s so much different than outdoor track, so it’s fun to work on tactics and get to run fast.
Do you feel like that fun in running went away during your string of injuries?
Yes, for sure. It was just making me unhappy overall. Anyone who’s had an Achilles injury knows that in the morning, you step out of bed and boom, all you can think about is the pain. Throughout the day, it just was a constant reminder that, A., I can’t do what I want to be doing, and B., I couldn’t do everyday things, like walking around the grocery store. It just was not fun.
Now I’m happy to be pain-free. I really couldn’t ask for anything more.
What do you think you did in training that finally gave way to recovering from your injuries? Achilles pain can be a finicky, ongoing problem and there’s not always a clear path to recovery. What do you think was the turning point to getting healthy and back to competing?
Consistency. I tried every method, every doctor, everything I could do. I’m now just being consistent with massages and physical therapy. Since I had those injuries for so long, I’ve been doing these PT exercises daily for three or more years now. Literally every day of my life I have PT exercises I do. Continuing to do those has paid off and made me stronger in more areas than just my Achilles. It was a long process, but I’m happy with the destination. I had a really good buildup this past fall too, since I was finally able to run high mileage—which I’ve never been able to do because of my Achilles. Everything seems to be clicking and heading in the right direction.
You mentioned in an Instagram post after your 1000m at the Dr. Sander Invitational that you’d be going back into hibernation—then you raced two weeks later in Boston. Has your racing schedule expanded because of your early success?
I always planned on doing those two races, but my schedule did expand in that I’m going to run USA Indoor Nationals [this weekend]. That was never the plan. I kind of wanted to go in, run a couple races indoors, then go right back to training; but I haven’t competed at Indoor Nationals in three years, so I’m excited! Getting to run at a national championship is always an honor and to qualify is a great accomplishment. It’ll be fun to get a couple more races in before I get back to a big training block.
What are some of your other goals for the 2019 season?
I haven’t looked too far ahead to outdoor [track], as we know it’ll be a long year ahead. The main thing I’m focusing on now is the USA Final and vying for one of those top three spots to make the world team. That’s the main focus right now; anything that comes along with that journey is just a bonus for me.
Now that you’re back on everyone’s radar at the top of your game, I imagine you’re starting to feel some pressure, especially since the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics is only 18 months away. Have you thought about the Olympic Trials yet?
It’s in the back of my mind, but there are things to be done and work to do between now and then. It’s not necessarily something that stresses me out. I’ve run in three Olympic Trials, so I feel like experience is on my side coming into 2020. Right now, I’d love to just run well this year and try to make the world team.
Catch Roesler in the first round of the 1000m on February 23rd at 5:50 p.m. EST at the USATF Indoor Championships.