Philadelphia High School
A Look at Fred Rosenfeld's 28-Year Coaching Career
At Overbrook (1977-93) and Central (1994-2004)
Note: Listed as co-coach at Central, 1994-96
This page includes stories, team scores/places in championship meets, key performers for championship teams
and yearly winners in championship meets during Coach Rosenfeld's 28 seasons.
To provide additions/corrections:firstname.lastname@example.org. . . Thanks!
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Fred Rosenfeld |
Fred Rosenfeld, an alumnus of the former, coached track at Overbook (17) and Central (11, first three as associate coach with Arnie Shiffrin) for 28 seasons, winning 17 solo Public League championships and two with Arnie. He won titles in his first nine years at 'Brook (and stayed there for eight more years). Here is the story about No. 9 . . .
By Ted Silary
Public League track opponents might not have to be kicked around by
Overbrook High anymore.
As for why he chose Pitt over
numerous other track biggies, Reed said, ''They were interested in me for
the way I am, not
just for the way I run."
Here's one guy whose head is as clear as his feet are happy.
AROUND THE TRACK: Bartram's Rodney Fuller won the 400 in 48.4, as Central frosh William Reed and Dobbins's
Juan Edney were timed in 49.5 . . . Bartram also got a win in the 400 intermediate hurdles (53.8) from Willard Fairweather
. . . Northeast's Ray Mitchell took second in the 1,600 (4:27.5) and third in the 800 (1:58.8).
This story was written in 1998 after Fred won his first Central championship . . .
By Ted Silary
Forget the notion that the stud performers on championship teams are always the only people worthy of attention or praise.
Sometimes, it pays to go on expeditions in other directions, because the yield can be tremendous.
Napoleon Nelson is one of the worker bees on the track team at the newly crowned Public League champ, Central High.
In fact, in competition yesterday at La Salle University, the 5-7, 165-pound senior participated in just one event as the
Lancers finished with 178 points to give coach Fred Rosenfeld his first boys track title at Central after 11 at Overbrook
(1977-85, '88, '93) and his 23rd overall total including cross country. While you're at it, throw in 11 more as an assistant.
Nelson ran the leadoff leg for the winning 4 x 100 relay team, which also featured Darryl Williams, Olufolasi Fadeyibi and
Kairi Cooper and covered the distance in 42.77 seconds.
This was one kid who was thrilled to earn a first-place trophy on a title-winning day.
"Two years ago,'' said Rosenfeld, at that time an assistant, "Napoleon was supposed to run in the same relay. For the good
of the team, he offered his spot to another kid, Nick Kosik. Get him to tell you about it."
"I was on the 4 x 100 team that qualified for the championship meet off our division meet performance, but I was always
the slowest leg,'' Nelson said. "A couple days before the champs, we had a no-holds-barred meeting where we talked about
a lot of things. I got the feeling the other guys wouldn't have had as much faith in me as I would have had. I decided I would
sit the race out and let a good friend of mine, a senior, take my place.
" 'Mr. `Rose' was hesitant to take me out. I convinced him it was the best thing to do for the team."
"Nothing was expected of them,'' he said. "But they won the slower heat and got fifth overall.''
That is only one Napoleon Nelson story. Here's another: He has scored 1,320 on the Scholastic Assessment Test (with
760 in math) and is headed to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the alma mater of his father, Napoleon, and
"My parents always pushed me - not so much to go to MIT - but to do well in school,'' Nelson said, smiling. ``They're
unrelenting. I'm constantly trying to tell them I've done this, that or the other. But they're always saying, `You'd better be
"Actually, I'm not quite at the top of my class . . . But what got me into MIT, I guess, is that I'm well-rounded, for one
thing, and really dedicated to engineering and computers, and play sports [in football, he was also a starting defensive back
and part-time running back] and active in my church.''
That would be Summit Presbyterian, in Mount Airy.
"I'm a deacon there, one of two youths out of about 15 deacons total,'' Nelson said. ``It involves helping out the
not-as-mobile members, planning for special events . . . Really, it's just making sure the members are moving along in
Careerwise, Nelson appears to be on the, ahem, fast track. He has already been granted a summer internship at a
computer-oriented firm, Andersen Consulting, in Philadelphia, that will last for four years.
"Unfortunately, I'm pretty much expecting just to do paperwork at the beginning,'' he said, laughing. ``But as the years
go on, I'll be going to client sites and helping them develop their management information systems and databases. So,
that'll be nice.
"I love computers. I'm really involved in finding out what's going on with Microsoft and the antitrust suits.''
Let us know what happens, friend. But promise not to talk over our heads.
KEEPING TRACK: Super-buffed David Collins, of Engineering and Science, swept the 100 (10.62) and 200 (21.44)
. . . Central's only individual winner on the track was Dan Heinz in the 3,200 (10:21.57) . . . Coolest nickname: Edison's
Charles Gaiters, third in the 100 (11.14) and fourth in the 200 (22.51), is known as "Muckie'' . . . For Gratz, Lee
Jackson and Beaufort Jenkins won the 400 (49.21) and 800 (1:58.27), respectively. Both ran legs on the first-place 4 x 400
relay (3:24.16). Martin Luther King had the best time, but was disqualified . . . Fred McCray, Fred Rosenfeld's assistant,
was a prominent sprinter on Central's championship teams in 1986 and '87 . . . Why is there a 4 x 200 relay for girls, but
not for boys?
These stories were written in 2004,
when Fred announced his upcoming retirement
and after he bagged one last championship . . .
By Ted Silary
So much for the notion that school overcrowding is always a horrible thing.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Overbrook High's bursting-at-the-seams enrollment helped give Fred Rosenfeld to the
intertwined worlds of track and cross country, and that turned out to be a wonderful thing.
Some kids attended school in the morning. Some did so in the afternoon. Rosenfeld was hired to teach physical
education to the afternoon bunch and, lo and behold, he wound up assisting the head coaches supervising morning
"I played soccer in high school," Rosenfeld said. "But I did like to run so . . . I figured I'd try it. I wound up loving it."
In an interview yesterday at Central, conducted at his memento-filled desk in the gym office, the start of Fred
Rosenfeld's coaching career was a topic of conversation simply for this reason: The end is near.
Rosenfeld will retire in June and take with him a whole lotta Public League championships.
Get out the calculator: Eleven in track at Overbrook. Five so far in track at Central. Eleven in cross country at 'Brook.
Five at Central.
At 'Brook, he was strictly the boys' coach. But at Central, he also produced five cross country titles with the girls
(in 6 years), and this spring should yield his first track title there (along with one more for the boys.)
That's 37 going on 39. Add in the crowns he helped to secure as an assistant at 'Brook (six in track with Jonas
Harding, three in cross country with Wilfred Collin). Oh, and don't forget the '95 and '96 championship track seasons
at Central. Rosenfeld and Arnie Shiffrin, now a volunteer assistant and jumping-events guru, basically worked in tandem.
Mike "Mr. Pole Vault" Ferko and Fred Brannon, a newcomer, are Rosenfeld's official track aides. Shiffrin, Ron Corson
and Fred McCray also assist. Though their contributions cannot be minimized, there is no doubting why it all comes
together so well.
Rosenfeld works long and hard, and he cares. He knows his team members as people, not just athletes, and he has
a way of making each one feel extra important.
Ask Rosenfeld what he's gotten out of coaching all these years, though, and be prepared for a hazy answer.
"Hmm. I've never thought about what I've gotten out of it," he said. "I've just always hoped that the kids have gotten
something nice out of it. I really like it when I see guys in their 30s and 40s who come back around and say they really
enjoyed participating in track or cross country.
"Many of the kids haven't done either sport before I've gotten them. I really enjoy seeing them progress, to develop a
skill they didn't even know they had. I've been blessed to have a lot of motivated kids."
In time, that is. Motivation often follows arm twisting.
As many of his current and former team members would tell you, Rosenfeld is legendary for combing the hallways
and telling anyone who looks remotely athletic (OK, anyone with a pulse): "Hey, you'd probably be good in [track
and/or cross country]. Why don't you come out for the team?"
Rosenfeld, who grew up on Berks Street, near 52nd, graduated from Overbrook in June '63. He then went to Temple.
His also coached men's and women's track and cross country at Philadelphia University (nee Textile) in the 1990-91
school year and cross country at Akiba Hebrew Academy for four seasons, ending in '97.
Also, in part because he was temporarily burned out, he switched to soccer at 'Brook in '83 and produced a
"The word was that the team had never won more than three games," he said.
Early in his 'Brook years, he coached one season of cadet basketball (a notch below junior varsity). Though he loved
that about 300 kids showed up for tryouts, he did not love having to cut about 285.
"I didn't have the stomach for that," he said. "I lost sleep over it. With so many kids, how do you know if you're
really keeping the right ones?"
Just recently, when the indoor national track championships were in Landover, Md., Rosenfeld arranged for two of
his current stars, Mike Syrnick (distance) and Mike Wray (hurdles), to have dinner with '77 'Brook grad Jason Grimes,
who was the world's second-ranked long jumper in '84 and held the PL record for 18 years at 23-8 1/2.
"I'm still very close with Jason," Rosenfeld said.
Rosenfeld started an alumni association while at 'Brook - his crowning achievement was getting Wilt Chamberlain
to return to the school to be honored - and at Central he is the freshman class sponsor.
Rosenfeld recently was inducted into the Pennsylvania State Track and Field Hall of Fame. So far, there have been
only 10 coaching inductees. Rosenfeld and Tim Hickey, who retired last spring from William Penn after a similarly
outstanding career, are the only two from Philly.
In retirement, he might dabble in assorted part-time endeavors at Central, including coaching, and he is also is
considering becoming an official.
The true beneficiaries will be his family members. Rosenfeld and his wife, Wendy, are about to celebrate their 36th
wedding anniversary. They have two children - Rachel, 32, and Josh, 29. There are also grandchildren, in Connecticut.
"Since I also coached indoor track for 30 years, my wife, I guess, has been neglected," he said. "I can't make up
He then reached into his desk and pulled out a copy of a story from Sports Illustrated about a similarly driven coach.
"The guy said he hoped to be there for his grandchildren the way he hadn't quite been for his children," he said.
He added: "As much as I've enjoyed this all these years, I need some time. I need some freedom."
Mike Taras can remember the moment as if it were yesterday.
Central High. Three years ago. Early September. During the homeroom period, commonly called "advisory" in the
city's public schools.
"The senior members of the cross country team were coming around and trying to talk kids into trying out for the
team," Taras said. "I had never heard of cross-country running. I played ice hockey in grade school, but Central
didn't have that. Plus, I couldn't afford it anymore. I figured, 'Hey, try something new.'
"That first year I finished next-to-last in the JV race. This year I finished sixth in the varsity race. That's because
of 'Rose. ' He's a great coach."
"Rose" is Fred Rosenfeld, and he's retiring this year after a long and wildly successful career in cross country and
track at Overbrook, then Central.
One more Public League title - this one in track - was yesterday added to the collection in the rain at Thomas
Edison, and Taras lent assistance.
Not gigantic assistance because Taras is not a headliner. But he posted third-place finishes over 1,600 (4 minutes,
37.6 seconds) and 3,200 meters (10:30.6) as the Lancers piled up 214 1/2 points to more than double runner-up
Murrell Dobbins Tech (100).
Central received two firsts from Mike Syrnick (1:56.9 in 800, 4:26.3 in 1,600) and one apiece from Mike Wray
(14.4 in 100 high hurdles) and Patrick Carr (10:14.6 in 3,200).
Rosenfeld departs with 38 titles - 17 in boys' track (11 at Overbrook, six at Central), 16 in boys' cross country
(11 at 'Brook, five at Central) and five in girls' cross country at Central. If you're inclined, you can make the total
40 as Rosenfeld and Arnie Shiffrin basically worked in tandem with Central's boys' track champs in '95 and '96.
Of Taras, Rosenfeld said, "He's the kind of kid I've always loved. He's diligent. Comes out every day and gives
you effort. He also gives you those depth points, which every champion needs."
Competing isn't easy for Taras, who is bothered by asthma and severe allergies.
"I'm taking one inhaler twice a day and another four times a day," he said. "A quick change in the weather is a
recipe for disaster. I've never had an emergency, but I've had the feeling my whole body's made of lead. If the
asthma flared up while I was running, I used to vomit. I can get past it now because I'm stronger."
Taras' first track endeavor was pole vaulting, and he cleared 10 feet as a frosh. He ditched that event, though,
fter figuring it made little sense to run all fall and winter and then waste that training.
This year he has been a co-captain for cross country and track and, yes, he is proud. The 6-foot, 155-pounder,
who lives near Bustleton and Devereaux, is also an honor-roll student with a 1,240 SAT score and he hopes to
participate in both sports as a walkon at Penn State.
|ONE TIME (Overbrook)|
|ONE TIME (Central)|