Joe has developed a reputation as one of the nation's top runners, winning 2009 New Jersey Cross Country Runner of the Year honors and finishing in 14:56 at the Meet of Champions. Jim is a premier track runner, posting a personal best of 4:07.89 in the 1,600 at the 2010 spring Meet of Champions. They will both attend Stanford next season.Read More Below
In the fourth grade, Joe Rosa ran the mile in gym class a few hours after his twin brother, Jim. He spent the entire day obsessing over it, planning what it would take to beat his time. He couldn't focus in class. He fought off nerves before the race. Like countless other events in their childhood, the mile became part of a never-ending quest to be the better brother.
"None of us like losing to the other," said Jim. "It's kind of demoralizing when you look at someone who looks exactly like you and they're better than you at something."
Joe eventually topped Jim's time. He wasn't shy about letting him know afterwards.
"After I did, I walked into his classroom and announced it to his class," said Joe. "We've always been like that."
Eight years later, the Rosas are still trying to prove who the faster twin is. They're also leaving everyone else in their tracks.
Now seniors at West Windsor-Plainsboro North High, Jim and Joe Rosa have developed into high school running legends. They form an uncatchable duo, a tandem of redheads who've whizzed past the competition. In New Jersey, they've carved out reputations as the brothers to beat in both cross country and track.
First, there's Joe. He's the state's premier distance runner, dusting the field with his blistering pace. He earned 2009 New Jersey Cross Country Runner of the Year honors after winning the Nike Cross Nationals Northeast Regional, Briarwood Invitational and Shore Coaches Invitational, among others. Most memorably, he ran a 14:56 at the 2009 NJSIAA Meet of Champions, shattering the course record in what is widely regarded as the greatest performance in state history.
"There's always gonna be a winner in a race," he said. "I always think, why not me?
Joe missed the entire 2010 season while recovering from foot surgery, but has since regained pre-injury form. He ran a personal best of 14:13.68 to win the 5,000 meter event at the Mercer Twilight Invitational, and captured the 3,200 meter race at last Saturday's Sectional Championships.
Jim's specialty is shorter races, particularly the 1,600 and 3,200 meter outdoor events. He owns the Meet of Champions record for his time of 4:07.89 in the 1,600 in 2010, and recently placed first in the Holmdel Twilight Series #2, posting a time of 4:15.03. As sensational as Joe's been at cross country, Jim has been equally terrific on the track.
"That's what running is all about," said Jim. "It's about finishing your race and then having to collapse on the ground 'cause you know you gave everything you had."
In Joe's absence, he also became the top cross country runner in the state. After finishing second to his brother in previous seasons, Jim won the Meet of Champions in 2010, continuing the Rosa's string of family supremacy.
Their success stems from an intensive training program. The Rosas run an average of 85 miles per week, alternating between fartleks (intervals), repeat 800s and casual -- at a 5:30 to 5:40 mile pace -- 10 to 15 mile jaunts. They couple that with a healthy diet, loading up on carbohydrates two to three days before every race.
They also benefit from great leadership, learning under the tutelage of former New Jersey Coach of the Year Brian Gould. He's been the engineer behind their machine-like dominance, formulating workout regimens and race day strategies. As might be expected, the twins credit him for many of their accomplishments.
"All we have to do is listen to him," said Joe. "That's how we get better."
So what's next for the speedy siblings? Starting this fall, Stanford. The brothers committed to the Cardinal last October, citing their team-wide commitment -- similar to that at West Windsor-Plainsboro North -- as the deciding factor. For both, it's also the next step toward their eventual Olympic dreams.
"I'm just excited to finally start getting my butt kicked again," said Jim. "Freshman year and sophomore year, I loved having like six guys around pushing me to be at my best."
That might be hard to come by, as the Rosas seem to be in a class of their own. They've been remarkable, finishing their high school careers not only best as the best runners in the state, but the best ever to don the Knights blue and white jerseys.
Despite their competitive nature, they've also matured from enemies into each other's biggest fans.
"I wouldn't say it's so much a rivalry as it is a team effort," said Joe. "I hate losing more to other kids than I hate losing to Jim."