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NDSU junior to run in 800-meter Olympic trials finals tonight

Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., is a 16,500-seat paradise for track and field. North Dakota State junior Laura Hermanson is treating it like a 16,500-foot roller coaster.

It's been one exciting climb after another.

"It's been a pretty big joy ride," she said.

The ride continues tonight in the finals of the 800-meter run in the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials. Three of the 12 survivors earn bids to the Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

Hermanson is a long shot to make it. But then again, she was considered a long shot to get by both the quarterfinals and semifinals.

"This is unbelievable - beyond anything we ever expected," said NDSU head women's track and field coach Ryun Godfrey. "It's not very common to see a collegiate athlete make it this far."

Hermanson finished fourth in her heat in Saturday's semifinals to qualify. Fargo South sophomore Laura Roesler had her joy ride end after making it past the quarterfinals.

Roesler has been the subject of nationwide coverage, with stories about her in the New York Times newspaper and the Los Angeles Times Web site.

"Whenever I have my North Dakota State stuff on, people say, 'Do you know Laura Roesler?' " Hermanson said. "It's fun to watch people react to this."

Hermanson's reaction has been one of appreciation for the moment. Getting this far, she said, is something she never really thought about.

A pileup in the first lap allowed her to move from seventh place into third. She actually had to hurdle another runner to avoid falling herself and then took advantage of the break by holding on in the last lap.

The result has been a steady stream of questions for Godfrey such as: Is it hard to train in North Dakota?

"The typical North Dakota questions," he said. "But it's been very cool. Part of it is the buzz about Laura Roesler."

Because of the crash, and after a protest, officials gave the four involved a pass to today's final, making it a field of 12 instead of the traditional eight. Also, because of the crash, Godfrey expects the favorites to go out fast to avoid a fall.

"I'm going to go in not knowing what to expect and roll with the punches," Hermanson said. "If they go out hard, I'll go out hard and try and stay with the pack."

The race is scheduled to start at 10:15 CST. USA Network is providing coverage of the Trials beginning at 10:05.

"This is all icing on the cake for her," Godfrey said. "She has nothing to lose. Yesterday, I was in disbelief. What an amazing thing for Laura."