David Rosa, one of the greatest track and field athletes in Livingston High School history and a member of the Fordham Hall of Fame, passed away suddenly on Monday.
He was just 41 years old.
Rosa, who leaves behind a 12-year old son, was an assistant track and field coach at Madison High School, a history teacher at Rahway High School, and a resident of Rahway at the time of this death.
News of Rosa's passing was met was shock, disbelief, and sadness.
This is so incredibly sad,'' said Keith Chaudruc, a longtime coach at Livingston and a very good friend of Rosa's. "It just hard to believe.''
Chaudruc first met Rosa in the spring of 1997 when Chaudruc became an assistant coach at Livingston during Rosa's senior year.
Chaudruc was blown away by Rosa's talent.
"It was clear as day the first time I ever saw him that Dave was a special athlete,'' said Chaudruc. "He could do everything, run, hurdle, jump, and throw. And he did everything well.''
In the spring of 1997, Rosa, whose specialty was the hurdles, turned in a remarkable season.
He won both the 100m hurdles and 400m hurdles at the Essex County Outdoor Championships, and swept the hurdles again at the N.J. Sec. 2 Group 4 meet. Then he dropped a huge PR when he finished third in the 400 hurdles at the Meet of Champions in 53.72.
He followed that up by placing seventh in the 400 hurdles to earn All-American honors at the National Scholastic Championships at NC State, and then Rosa racked up 5,639 points in the decathlon to place first at the USATF-NJ Open Championships.
He concluded his high school career as the school record holder at Livingston in the 55 hurdles (7.75), 110 hurdles (14.2), 400 IH (53.72), and the decathlon (5,639). All those records still stand.
Rosa went on to a Hall of Fame career at Fordham University.
He was two-time Atlantic 10 champion in the 400 hurdles, and two-time First Team and two-time Second Team All-Atlantic 10 selection.
Rosa also earned All-East honors as a junior and senior, placing fifth in the 400m intermediate hurdles at the 2001 and 2002 outdoor IC4A/ECAC Championships.
On the Atlantic 10 level, Rosa won the 400m intermediate hurdles at the 2001 and 2002 outdoor A-10 Championships to earn First Team All A-10 honors, and his winning time of 52.30 in 2002 is still top 15 all-time in A-10 history. He also took second in the 110m hurdles at the 2001 and 2002 outdoor A-10 Championships to earn Second Team All-Conference.
Indoors, Rosa placed third in the 55m hurdles at the 2000 indoor Atlantic 10 Championship and sixth in the 200m and eighth in the 55m hurdles at the 2001 indoor championships
Rosa was inducted into the Fordham Athletics Hall of Fame in 2019.
After graduating from Fordham in 2002, Rosa coached track and field at several schools, making a huge impact everywhere he coached.
He coached at East Hanover, Livingston, South Plainfield, Rahway, and Madison.
Rosa had been at Madison since 2009.
"Although his athletic accomplishments are certainly impressive, in my opinion, he was one of the best coaches in the state,'' said Chaudruc. "He's one of the very few people who can coach every event on the track and in the field. He was always very generous and giving with his time and talents to help both the least experienced, and the most talented athletes and he did it all with his contagious smile.''
Chaudruc said Rosa was the kind of guy everyone wanted to be around.
"David had the ability to instantly light up a room or a track with his personality, smile, laughter and wonderful spirit,'' said Chaudruc. "Throughout all aspects of his life, he is remembered fondly not only for all he did but most importantly for the way he did it.''
Rahway head coach Leon Bunion taught with Rosa at Rahway High for last 15 years, and the two coached together for a few years when Rosa was on the Rahway staff.
Bunion said the while the death of his good friend is hard to comprehend right now, and he'll never forget the great times they had together and the laughs they shared.
"I'm sure everyone who knows him would agree that Dave was a funny guy, with a huge heart,'' said Bunion. "He is well known for always smiling (not sure if I've ever seen him frown). He even smiles when he's angry! In addition to his wealth of knowledge on every subject imaginable, Dave was also a serious handy man who could fix almost anything!''
Bunion said Rosa made his impact felt at Rahway.
"A great friend, and a great colleague, Dave will be sorely missed,'' said Bunion. "He certainly left his mark on the Rahway community. The students and staff will miss him dearly. We certainly send our condolences to his family, especially his son, Dave Jr. He should know that his dad is great man and his legacy will always be remembered!
Madison head coach Mark Ladolcetta was another great friend of Rosa's. They coached together at Livingston, and then again at Madison for the past decade. They spent a lot of time together on and off the track.
Ladolcetta said Rosa had such a pasison for track and field.
"Dave absolutely loved the sport of track and field as an athlete, a coach, and a fan,'' said Ladolcetta. "This was evident in all that he did as a coach at Madison. He loved coming to MHS every day to coach, and the countless hours at track meets never seemed like a job to him. It was like there was nothing else that he'd rather be doing. Having coached with Dave many years ago in Livingston, I also saw him develop into a great coach, who could not only help the most talented kids on our team, but also was able to help athletes of all ability levels to improve.''
Ladolcetta said Rosa made an immediate impact when he arrived at Madison.
"I remember the first week of winter track practice in his first season in Madison,'' said Ladolcetta. "He told me one day that he was going to teach some new kids how to hurdle. After a short amount of time, I looked over and he had about 40 kids, most of whom had never hurdled before, doing all of the typical hurdle drills like a well - organized military drill. I was astounded, and knew that I had hired the right person.
Another memorable moment. was when our boys team won the winter track sectional in 2012. Dave drove back to Madison ahead of the bus. Dave found a Madison police officer sitting in his patrol car and asked the officer to give us a police escort through town. At the time, our football team had many of their own police escorts through town after recent sectional championships. It was a Thursday night meet and we cruised down Main St. in Madison around 12 midnight. There wasn't a sole out on the streets, but we came through town with sirens blazing and lights flashing and our kids loved it.''
Ladolcetta said Rosa will be remembered fondly for lots of things.
"Dave will certainly be remembered as a great athlete and great coach,'' said Ladolcetta. "But I know that everyone involved with the Madison track program will also remember Dave for his sense of humor, his bad jokes, his love of obscure energy drinks, his wealth of knowledge in many subject areas, and one of his favorite phrases: "Drop the Hammer!"
All are welcome to pay their respects when services for Rosa are held this Saturday from 2-5 at The Lehrer-Gibilisco Funeral Home, 275 West Milton Avenue Rahway, New Jersey 07065.