James Wood’s Rosso setting higher marks

WINCHESTER — There weren’t many people to choose from on the Frederick County Middle School track and field team when Rene Rosso started competing in the sport in seventh grade, so the coaching staff had her try pretty much everything.

“I did the 100, 400, 4x100, 4x400, hurdles, all the different jumps,” Rosso said. “I liked it. When you do something new, I think it’s fun, because you can surprise yourself.”

Now a sophomore at James Wood High School, Rosso is still pretty much doing everything, and she’s still surprising herself.

Seventh grade might have been the last time someone else was surprised by one of Rosso’s accomplishments though.

“You would never know from her attitude that she’s as good as she is,” James Wood coach Matt Stegmaier said. “She’s just so laid-back. You see her walking around, talking to people at meets, and she’s as friendly as she can be.

“But then she goes to compete, and she goes into a beast mode. She just does not want to lose. She’s got talent and self-motivation, which is awesome.”

After bursting onto the high school scene by qualifying for states in four events last year (placing in the top nine in three of them) and breaking two school records that had both stood since 1993, Rosso has been even better this year.

Rosso ranks among the area’s top three in an area-best six individual events heading into today’s 21-school Apple Blossom Invitational, which begins at 9 a.m at James Wood’s Kelican Stadium.

This year she’s achieved personal records in the 100-meter hurdles (15.54 seconds this year; her top time was 15.94 last year), high jump (5 feet, 2 inches this year, 5-0 last year) and long jump (an area-best 17-0¼ this year, 16-7 last year).

At this time last year Rosso had yet to crack 50 seconds in the 300 hurdles, but the 48.21 she ran last week at Woodgrove’s Wolverine Invitational is just 0.72 off her school-record time of 47.49 that she ran to take ninth at last year’s Group 4A state meet.

Rosso is also standing out in the 400, ranking third in the area individually with a 1:04.30 and contributing to James Wood’s second ranked 4x400 team (4:21.96).

The only event where she’s behind compared to last year is in the triple jump (she had hit 35-0 heading into the Apple Blossom Invitational and went on to set the school record of 36-10 at the Conference 21 meet last year). A back injury she suffered during the indoor season has limited her in that event, but Rosso’s top mark of 33-10 is still good for second best in the area.

Out of all the aforementioned events, the individual 400 is the only one that’s not a regular part of her routine.

“The standard she sets pushes the entire team,” said Colonels junior Kayla Shaffer, one of the area’s top 300 hurdlers. “She’s a friend that pushes you and encourages you. When you’re down, she helps you.

“When I was in eighth grade, I looked up to her even though I was older than her, because I wanted to be as good as Rene. Now I’m still trying to catch up to her.”

Rosso only competed in one sport before taking up track, and given the 5-foot-10 Rosso’s athleticism it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that gymnastics is where she got her start. (Rosso started with gymnastics around age 10 before giving it up in December to focus on track.)

Stegmaier was one of Rosso’s teachers in middle school. Though he didn’t get to see Rosso in action in middle school because of his commitments with James Wood, he was well aware of the type of athlete that was in his classroom from seeing middle school results, and walking the halls of Frederick County Middle.

“The [physical education] teachers would always say, ‘Wait until this girl comes to you,’” Stegmaier said.

Rosso won numerous titles at the Frederick County Junior League track championships in middle school and had top marks of 31-2 in the triple jump, 4-8 in the high jump and 15-3 in the long jump.

Still, entering high school, Rosso wasn’t expecting to do anything special her freshman year. Her main focus was on trying to measure up to teammates like Becca Ferrulli, a standout sprinter and jumper who will compete for Shenandoah University next year, and 2015 graduate Amanda Funk, a hurdler and sprinter.

“They were my role models,” Rosso said. “Any time I’d get near them, I would get so happy. Because they pushed me, I was able to start beating them.”

Not to mention practically everyone she encountered last year. Rosso had a strong regular season, but she shined brightest in the postseason spotlight.

At the Conference 21 meet, she not only won the triple jump with her school-record performance, but she took second in the 300 hurdles, third in both the long jump and 100 hurdles, and fourth in the high jump.

At the 4A North Region meet, she took second in the triple jump, fourth in the 300 hurdles, ran her season-best 100 hurdles time to take fifth, and placed seventh in the long jump.

She capped off her season by taking eighth in the triple jump to earn-all state honors, equaled her season-best to take ninth in the high jump, and set the school record to take ninth in the 300 hurdles.

“I surprised myself a lot last year,” Rosso said. “I didn’t even think I’d make it states last year. But once I started having success, I wanted more.”

Stegmaier said James Wood certainly didn’t expect Rosso to break school records so soon, but the amount of talent she displayed early on made the coaches think she was capable of doing great things.

And because of her competitive spirit and desire to help the team, it became routine to have her to do five or six events in most meets.

“Sometimes she’s a little banged up and we suggest holding back, and she’ll say, ‘I’ll be good,’” Stegmaier said. “She’s just a gamer. She does not let up.”

Rosso says doing so many events can definitely be tiring. But doing so not only benefits the team, but it pushes herself to be better. Essentially, Rosso enjoys challenges — her favorite event is the 300 hurdles, the one that she says is the hardest for her to do.

“Last year I just ran it,” Rosso said. “I didn’t really know how. Now I actually hit the hurdles right, and I know how to pace myself better. I’m not just winging it.”

Rosso is ahead of the pace she set last year because she’s more knowledgeable about track, but also because she prepared herself better physically.

She didn’t do any type of physical conditioning prior to her freshman season, but the success she had prompted her to put more time in this year. She ran throughout the summer, then started running with Shaffer once school started, and joined a gym with her once the weather got cold.

Stegmaier was glad to hear James Wood coordinator of student activities Craig Woshner tell him that Rosso and some of her teammates were working out on their own, and Stegmaier said Rosso showed up at all of the camps that the team held from August to December. Still, he thinks Rosso has it in her to push herself even harder.

“[Senior sprinter] Princess Sales, you have to tell her to stop working out so much,” said Stegmaier with a laugh. “If Rene gets more like that, who knows what she can do out here. She has prepared herself better though, and I think she’s starting to understand that she’s got to do more. If she does, it’s scary to think how good she can be.”

For now, she’s simply the top scorer for a team coming off a conference championship season, and she’s showing no signs of slowing down based on her last two meets.

Rosso set personal records in the high jump and 100 hurdles in a dual against Millbrook on April 13. Two days later at Woodgrove, she took second in the triple jump and long jump, third in the high jump, 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles, and helped the 4x400 team take sixth for a total of 34.75 individual points, which would have placed sixth by herself in the 22-school meet. (James Wood took second as a team.)

“I looking back at my old times and marks, and it took me a while to get where I’m at now,” said Rosso, who is seeded no lower than third today in any of the aforementioned five individual events. “I’m surprised with where I’m at right now.”

She shouldn’t be. She’s put in the work and has the competitiveness to succeed. Her humble attitude is just one of the many things that teammates appreciate about her.

“She’s not cocky about her success,” Shaffer said. “You tell her she broke a school record, and she doesn’t make a big deal about it. If you’re having a bad day, Rene will make you laugh.

“She just keeps everyone going as a person and an athlete.”

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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