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PREP SPORTS: Red River athlete focuses on track over soccer, while Central player tries to squeeze in both

Sitting in the stands, watching her classmates and former soccer teammates, was uncomfortable for Ashley Rone last week.

The Grand Forks Red River High School junior track standout admits she misses playing soccer, a sport she began playing before she started elementary school.

“Sitting there and watching, I wanted to go out and play so bad,’’ Rone said. “I’ll always miss playing soccer. But I definitely made the right decision.’’

Soccer or track? Soccer and track?

For the past two seasons, it was both for Rone; this season she decided to concentrate just on track and forego soccer. Grand Forks Central sophomore Grace Roehl, on the other hand, is finding a way to squeeze both sports into her schedule again this spring.

“I’ve played soccer all my life,’’ Roehl said. “I don’t want to give it up. But when I started running cross country in seventh grade, I really enjoyed (distance running), too.’’

Narrowing the focus

Rone had success in soccer. She was third on last season’s Roughrider team in goals (four) and points (seven). As a freshman, Rone scored five goals.

But she burst onto the track scene. After finishing sixth at state in the 400 as a freshman in her initial season in track, Rone placed in the 100 (third), 200 (second) and 400 (fifth) at state last season. She broke Red River school records in the 100 and 200 at the state meet.

“It was hard being in two sports,’’ Rone said. “I’d go straight from track practice to soccer practice. There were scheduling conflicts between the two. The soccer coaches wanted me there because it was a team sport, while I wanted to train to my full capacity in track.

“I wanted to focus more on my grades this year and put everything into track. I didn’t feel like soccer was going to get me anywhere for college. But I’ve gotten a lot of letters and e-mails from college track coaches.’’

Concentrating on track seems to be paying off in faster times for Rone.

At the Grand Forks dual last week, the junior had faster times in the 100, 200 and 400 compared to a year ago. Likewise, she was running faster times at indoor meets compared to the 2013 season.

“We didn’t get to work with Ashley much in practices last year,’’ Riders coach Tracey Heisler said. “We wanted her to be able to keep up her energy for both sports. Now we’re able to work with her on technique things — running form, starts out of the blocks, race strategies and training for different races.

“Ashley is a really gifted athlete. I think she’ll see faster times earlier in the season because she’s more rested. Being in two sports is hard physically. And Ashley doesn’t let up in anything.’’

Distance doable

Roehl, on the other hand, has figured out how to combine the two sports. Miss track practice? No problem — she’s ahead of the game on that.

“Our soccer practices are four miles from our school,’’ Roehl said. “I just run to practice every day to get in my workout. I can run on my own. I think it would be harder (to do both) for a sprinter, where you always need a coach to work with.’’

Roehl is a proven quality distance runner. In cross country last fall, she finished sixth in the Eastern Dakota Conference meet and 21st at the state meet. And she’s a regular for the Knights soccer team that is off to a 1-2 start.

And, while Rone is running faster times compared to a year ago in the sprints, Roehl has run personal-record times this season in the 1,600 and 3,200 while doing two sports.

“George DuBois, our soccer coach, and I work well together on this,’’ Central girls track coach Eric Polries said. “We’ve had other girls who have done dual sports. Obviously, there are challenges doing two sports at once. But I think some variety is good for kids.’’

The dual sports has been a family tradition for Roehl. Her older brother, Camron, was in cross country and soccer. Her younger sister, Alexis, runs track for Central while playing middle-school soccer.

Whether it is as distance runner or sprinter, Roehl sees advantages in both in soccer. “I have the endurance to play for a long time and keep running,’’ Roehl said. “But the sprinters can get to the ball more quickly.

“I love both sports too much to pick just one to play. Maybe if I committed to one, I could excel more in it. But I don’t want to make that choice.’’

DeVillers reports on sports. Call him at (701) 780-1128, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1128 or send e-mail to