In her years at Kennedy High School in Bellmore, Merokean Sara Rosenzweig grew accustomed to finishing first among Cougar cross-country and track runners. She twice qualified for the New York State High School Cross-Country Championship, and ended her high school career last spring by capturing the Nassau County steeplechase title.
Rosenzweig, now 18, said she had long dreamed of running for the nationally ranked SUNY Geneseo cross-country and track program, coached by Mike Woods, a Geneseo graduate and a legend among SUNY coaches, with 20 Coach of the Year awards to his name. So Rosenzweig was ecstatic when Woods recruited her to run for Geneseo, which captured the NCAA Division III national title in 2005 and has won 13 women’s SUNY Athletic Conference cross-country championships since 2000.
Rosenzweig, now a Geneseo freshman, said she knew she would have to step up to become a top runner for the Knights. Throughout the summer, she ran eight to 10 miles a day, training before and after her lifeguarding job at Merrick Woods Country Day Camp.
When she ran in Geneseo’s team time trial in August, she placed 10th among 30 of her fellow squad members. She had her work cut out for her.
After the trial, Rosenzweig said, “I stayed patient, and I worked really hard in the workouts.” Her persistence paid dividends. At the SUNYAC Cross-Country Championship on Nov. 2 at Fortin Park in Oneonta, Rosenzweig exploded, finishing ninth in the 124-runner field, completing the 6K course in 22:20, 19 seconds behind teammate Keira Wood, a junior from Lake Ronkonkoma, who won the individual title.
Geneseo, which placed five runners in the top 10, won the team championship. (In cross-country, the top five runners on a squad score.)
Rosenzweig was Geneseo’s fifth runner –– and the first freshman from any school –– to cross the finish line that overcast day. With such a stellar performance, she was named the first-ever SUNYAC Women’s Rookie Runner of the Year. The SUNY Athletic Conference comprises 10 Division III schools across the state.