Christina Derosa Leads The Way For UMass Runners
Dec. 5, 2005
On a calm and cool Saturday afternoon in the fall, you will find many New Englanders glued to their television sets watching the end of the baseball season and the beginning of the football season without the slightest worry of the outside world.
But if you listen carefully to what's outside your dorm room and building, you will hear a stampede. That stampede is the pitter-patter of over 200 pairs of shoes, and those shoes are on the feet of the Massachusetts women's cross-country team.
Watch closely, and the first pair of shoes you always see cross the line belong to Christina DeRosa.
Derosa, a sophomore, has been the Minutewomen's lead runner every single meet she has ran. Derosa, who is originally from Sound Beach, N.Y., attended Miller Place High School and was an All-New York Cross-country runner as a junior and senior.
As a senior she was the captain for both the cross-country and indoor track teams and finished her senior season as the 19th ranked cross-country runner in New York.
Derosa, as she was known by her high school teammates and is still called by her college teammates, led her track teams to two league championships and guided her cross-country team to four county titles (eight consecutive for the program, but was not able defend the year after Derosa graduated).
Derosa admits that she is not a physical athlete, which is why she never got into soccer or field hockey. She started running in junior high school.
"I just always liked it and always had fun with it," Derosa says. "All my friends stopped after high school, but I love to compete. I couldn't do college without a sport."
Derosa, who is an exercise science major and wants to get into the field of sports physical therapy, was not actually recruited by UMass. She decided to swing by the campus as she was visiting other colleges that included Boston College and Northeastern, and she liked the school and coach Julie LaFreniere so much that she decided to enroll and signed on in November of her senior year in high school.
"It just felt right, I didn't put much thought into it. It seemed like a good fit," Derosa says.
A good fit is an understatement - it's been more or less a perfect fit for Derosa at UMass, as she has been the first to cross the finish line for the Maroon and White in every race.
In her freshman season as a Minutewoman she had three top ten finishes highlighted by a first-place mark at the UMass Invitational where she ran an 18:12 on the home course. She was twice named Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week when she placed 25th overall at the New England Championships and also when she recorded a ninth-place finish at the Albany Invitational.
Derosa finished second overall at the Syracuse Orange Classic with a time of 19:33.14 and ran a 22:45.3 at the NCAA Northeast Regional meet to finish 63rd overall. She just missed Atlantic 10 All-Conference honors as she finished 12th overall at the league meet running an 18:35.
As for a sophomore slump, the 5'3" New Yorker seems to not be choking in her second year in the Maroon and White. At the Dartmouth Invitation (9/10) she finished 14th with a time of 20:29.3. A week later UMass hosted Maine and Vermont at Amherst College due to the home course under construction, and Derosa finished second overall with time of 19:07. With a time of 22:02.9 at the Paul Short Invitational she placed 75th and at the New England Championships she recorded a 21st place finish; both meets featured over 300 runners.
Why is Derosa so successful? What keeps those little feet going and going and going like the Energizer Bunny? What's the key that fits in the hole so well for her as a Minutewoman? And the answers to those questions are the other Minutewomen and the friendships she has gained from running at UMass.
"I'm really happy to come to team here," Derosa says. "I know a lot of people who don't enjoy it anymore. I'm doing well because of the friendships, I wouldn't be as successful without them."
If you are not a collegiate athlete, or do not know or talk to collegiate athletes, you may not know how much work they put in and how much they see their teammates. Derosa and the Minutewoman cross-country team are running miles while the rest of the campus is sleeping and dreading the day of classes ahead. They wake up at 6 a.m., they train together, they push each other, they hang out with each other, and they care for each other.
"I have a lot of fun, they're my best friends," Derosa says. "I've established good friendships and I'll probably know them forever."
The girls have pasta parties the night before every meet. Last year the Maroon and White had their pasta parties at Pasta e Basta in the center of Amherst. This year they're slurping pasta at the home of senior Jennifer Marine and junior Jenna Elznic.
Derosa liked coach LaFreniere and that was one of the main reasons why she came here. But what did LaFreniere think of her?
"She did not have a fantastic senior year, she went down from her junior year," LaFreniere says. "We signed her, she wasn't doing well, and so the red flag went up for me."
LaFreniere was worried about her addition, and then got some troubling e-mails from Derosa. So LaFreniere advised her to get her iron checked, and sure enough she was very much anemic. The doctors couldn't believe she was running, and it takes a good six to eight weeks to recover from iron therapy.
Derosa ended up losing her indoor season and didn't really want to participate in the outdoor season her senior year, but LaFreniere convinced her to because she missed her indoor season and she would be more prepared for when she would come to UMass and compete at the college level.
Derosa trusted LaFreniere already by this time that she asked her to coach her, and to apply the Minutewomen's workouts. LaFreniere suggested that she do her what her high school coaches recommended, and then Derosa ended up getting hurt and consequently had a bad outdoor season as well.
"So I went 'oh no', and more red flags went up...I signed a dud," LaFreniere says. "She was ready to go though, and the first day of practice she did great.
"Christina's a hard worker, she's very enthusiastic. She comes to practice with a very upbeat, positive attitude, and that helps with the whole atmosphere, makes the workout a lot more fun. She's not afraid to work hard. She's the type of athlete that goes to the meets and charges out there as long as she can hold on. She's very competitive, and very aware of who her competition is."
Derosa competes with sparkly ribbons in her long brown hair, which is quite notable from afar. She stands out, and according to LaFreniere, it matches her personality perfectly.
"She's a sparkly person," LaFreniere says.
Even when being asked questions about her, Derosa just won't stop talking about the team and their achievements and how they're improving. She is really a team player, a team player in a sport that many who are not close to the sport would know about.
"It really is a team sport," Derosa says. "If you can't do it for yourself, then you do it for your team. Get them to pass the next person."
Not only does Derosa help her fellow teammates out, but with her sparkling personality, she also helps the coaching staff.
"I love having her on the team; I'm enjoying the whole team. The team loves her, they're a tight squad, and she's a big part of that squad," LaFreniere says. "I honestly enjoy my job, but people like Christina make my job easier."
The Minutewomen are like family to Derosa, she bleeds Maroon and White, but speaking of blood, what about her real family? Did I say real family? What I meant to say was fans. Her parents, Anthony and Alice, are her number one fans and they try to make it out to as many meets as they can and they are far from those intensive parents you hear about on the news.
"They're really supportive," Derosa says. "They're more upset when I'm mad at myself. They remind me that it's just running."
So what's left for the future of this Minutewoman? Is she going to give the Energizer Bunny a run for its money after college?
"I would have to get a lot faster," Derosa says. "I want to compete after college in like marathons. But right now I'm just having fun."
LaFreniere in her 19 seasons at the helm of the UMass teams has coached some great runners, like Kelly Liljeblad who was the first UMass track and field All-American when she placed fifth in the 10,000 meter at the NCAA Championships in 1995. And she says that it all depends on where Christina's heart is, and if she wants to, then she's capable of doing so.
The best thing for Derosa, and the Massachusetts women's cross-country team, is that the squad (Derosa's best friends) is all coming back with the exception of one senior. That means more pasta parties and sparkly ribbons.