RIDGEFIELD, Conn. – Ridgefield’s Leah Rosenfeld has competed twice before in the Maccabiah Games, and even came away with a gold medal. Her gold in the 3,000 meters in the Games last month, however, was particularly sweet.
Rosenfeld ran 9:53 to win an individual gold for the first time in her three trips to the quadrennial competition among Jewish athletes in Israel. She won a gold medal with the 4 x 400 relay in 2005 and a silver that year in the 800 and bronze in the 1,500. She missed the podium in 2009.
“It was important because it was my third time going and I really wanted to win a medal,’’ Rosenfeld said “If it was a gold medal, it was icing on the cake. They don’t let you compete in the Games more than three times, so I really wanted to make the most of it.”
Rosenfeld’s focus these days is on coaching. She served last year as a graduate assistant at Northern Arizona University and will join the staff full time this year. She also coached as a volunteer assistant at Syracuse University and with a high school team in California in the past few years. With so much time dedicated to coaching, Rosenfeld’s own competitive agenda has become a lower priority.
“With coaching, it’s hard to compete at the same time,’’ she said. “Sometimes in the winter when students are on break, and during the summer when they’re out of school are the only times I can take advantage of racing. This race was in my mind the whole time, motivating me to train.”
Rosenfeld had a terrific career at Ridgefield High School and Penn State. All along, however, her objective was to take her knowledge and passion for running into a coaching career.
“A lot of it is being a mentor for young people,'' said Rosenfeld, whose father Ron, owns the fitness and running store, New Balance New Canaan. “Whether it’s bettering them athletically, or in some way bettering their life, it’s something I wanted to do. I always wish I had a mentor like that. And I also love running. I just wanted to be around young athletes and the college environment. I love the competition, and it’s fun being able to develop athletes.”
Rosenfeld said she receives frequent advice from her former coach at Penn State, Beth Alford-Sullivan, and has learned a lot from Northern Arizona coach Eric Heins. Switching gears from athlete to coach is never easy, and Rosenfeld is still working on that process.
“It definitely was a learning experience,’’ she said. “I’m constantly learning and taking advice from other coaches and getting feedback from them. Every athlete is different, and you have to teach accordingly.”