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USA Today xc article - Nike xc championships

Posted Wednesday, December 01, 2010 by Mike Hout
JERSEY TWINS TAKE TURNS IN CROSS COUNTRY SPOTLIGHT  by Eugene Mulero    special for USA TODAY on 12/1/10

History shows that those who run the 3.1 mile course at Holmdel Park - site of the New Jersey high school cross country championships - in less than 16 minutes usually go on to excel at the collegiate level and beyond.

But on Nov. 21, 2009, that longstanding standard was redefined when Joe Rosa, a junior at West Windsor Plainsboro North, crossed the Holmdel finish line in 14 minutes, 56 seconds en route to a state title.  The time was 20 seconds faster than the course record, set in 1988.  That same day, Joe's twin brother, Jim, finished second in 15:15 - the second-fastest time for a high schooler at the park.  From then on, the Rosas have dominated the national distance running scene, earning All-America honors in cross country and track.

This year, with Joe out with a foot injury, Jim embraced the spotlight and has compiled an undefeated season as he heads to the seventh annual Nike high school cross country championships Saturday in Portland, Ore.  There, he will face Illinois' Lukas Verzbicas, last year's winner of the Foot Locker high school championships.

The Rosas beat Verzbicas in the 2-mile race at the 2010 New Balance Nationals, where Joe won in 8:44, and Jim was second in 8:51.  "It was awesome," Jim Rosa said.  "I think it might have been 1,200 (meters) to go, Joe turned around and he was like, 'He's fading a little.  We have to go after him.'  That really got me excited.  I knew for him to turn around and say something to me while we were running that fast.....he had to be feeling good."

The Rosas grew up in a small middle-class enclave outside Princeton.  They began to run in sixth grade, and by high school, they excelled in the middle distances.  At West Windsor Plainsboro North, their training has become the stuff of legends: clocking fast 400-meter repeats in between miles run at race pace, for instance.  

Brian Gould, who coached the Knights to state title contenders this year without Joe, said the twins are not afraid to break away from the start of a race.  The Rosas, he said, are explosive, a trait many top runners from the Garden State have.  They push hard and fast from the start and rely on endurance.

That relentless style is reminiscent of New Jerseyans Marty Liquori, a world-class runner in the 1970's, and, more recently, Robby Andrews, an All-American at the University of Virginia.  It's an approach Gould describes as "reckless abandon."  Andrews ran the Holmdel Park course in 15:58.  Brad Hudson, a former assistant Olympic coach who ran at Oregon, had a best of 15:38 while in high school.

The Rosas, who will run at Stanford next year, will enter the indoor track season as the top runners in the country.  Joe is expected to be healthy.  Their progress and times suggest they could break a variety of records and even run sub-4 minutes for the mile, a feat U.S. high schoolers have achieved only four times. 

NIKE CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
WHERE: Portland Meadows park, Portland, ORE.
WHEN: Saturday
WHO TO WATCH: Jim Rosa (West Windsor-Plainsboro North, Plainsboro, N.J.), Lukas Verzbicas (Carl Sandburg, Orland Park, Ill.), Armando Del Valle (Columbus, Miami), Edward Cheserek (St. Benedict's Prep, Newark)

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