East Ridge graduate Nate Roese ran the first 800 of his career at the tail end of his senior season with the University of Minnesota men's track and field team.
But that did not stop him from becoming a NCAA All-American in the mid-distance event. Roese ran the 800-meter run just one time before the Big 10 championship meet.
Deep down, he always felt the 800 might be his event. But until this spring, he never had the chance to prove it.
"The last regular season meet, right before Big Tens, one of my teammates paced me in the 800, and I ran a sub 1:50, which got me into regionals," Roese said about his first race. "That's where it all kind of took off."
Despite his limited experience, Roese finished third in the Big Ten 800-meter finals with a time of 1:50.84 on campus at Penn State University in May, just milliseconds behind teammate and friend Mitch Hechsel.
The best 800 time of his career came in the NCAA Division I outdoor championships this past June in Eugene, Ore. Roese finished 14th with a time of 1:47.61, making him a second-team All-American for the second time in his career.
"After that race, I was so dead," Roese said. "I was happy to pop a PR (personal record) at the very end of my track career and get All-American. It was a good way to end my college career."
As a junior, he also was named second-team All-American with the University of Minnesota 4x400 relay team.
Roese had the chance to run in the same heat as Hechsel at nationals. The University of Minnesota seniors had known each other since high school when both ran the 400 and played basketball. Hechsel was a graduate of Apple Valley High School.
"It's funny, we knew each other in high school and came to the U," Roese said. "We were really good friends, and we still are."
Roese still holds the state record in the 400-meter dash, a time of 47.56 that he ran in 2013 — his senior season. Four years later, the record still stands.
He will not be disappointed when the record inevitably falls. Instead, Roese might reach out to the runner with a question.
"I'd probably ask where they are looking for college, and tell them to go to the U," Roese said. "I'd for sure congratulate them. It's a hard thing to do, running 47 seconds in high school. So I'd definitely give them props."
Roese plans to keep training on his own at least for another year while he finishes up school at the University of Minnesota, aiming to qualify and compete at the USA Indoor Track and Field Championships in the 600-meter run.
He and Hechsel were approached by a professional track club that showed interest in Washington D.C. at NCAA nationals this spring. If his next season of training goes well, he might consider running as a professional.
"I really thought that was kind of my race, so I'm happy that I got the chance to actually run it and kind of see what I can do in it," Roese said about the 800. "If I have a year of full training in, I could hopefully do better and see where that takes me."