Rossi goes the extra mile

Tamath Rossi, deputy mayor of Naugatuck, runs in a half marathon in Cheshire in 2012. –CONTRIBUTED
Tamath Rossi, deputy mayor of Naugatuck, runs in a half marathon in Cheshire in 2012. –CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — Everyone who knows Tamath Rossi is not surprised by her extraordinary accomplishments. To call her a go-getter would be an understatement.

Rossi has a drive and a determination to succeed that just boils up inside her.

“I’m very stubborn,” admits Rossi in her usual honest and up-front demeanor. “I set goals and I’m very determined. But on the other hand my mind is constantly racing, I’m a little excitable, and yes I’m a bundle of energy.”

Rossi, Naugatuck’s deputy mayor since 2003, has never met a challenge that she didn’t go after head-on.

The 1984 New York Military Academy graduate was a three-sport athlete, playing soccer, basketball and softball. The lieutenant was on her way to Kings Point for a career in the military when she changed her plans. She chose to instead attend Russell Sage College in Troy, N.Y. and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in political science.

Rossi settled in Naugatuck and married Ray Rossi. The couple has three children: eldest son Thomas, who graduated from Mount St. Mary College in Newburg, N.Y. in 2014, daughter Ally, who is entering her senior year at Nonnewaug High School, and youngest son Ben, a soon-to-be sophomore at Naugatuck High School.

“I probably have a competitive nature,” acknowledges Rossi. The truth of the matter is she is a fierce competitor. “But my children and family come first no matter what.”

Rossi grew up looking to her father, Darrah Moore, as a role model. Moore was a football hero and boxer at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. The competitive apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

Three years ago Rossi got into the sport of running, encouraged by her Spin instructor, Karen Coleman, at Blast Fitness. People in Naugatuck surely recognize Rossi dressed in her green visor and colorful running shoes as she runs through the borough on her daily workouts.

Fortunately Rossi’s next door neighbor is Naugatuck High School track coach Ralph Roper, who took her under his wing and helped her get acclimated to the sport.

“The first thing Ralph told me was to ditch the Nikes. He worked with me on my mechanics and now I have the most fashionable running shoes you have ever seen,” Rossi said with a chuckle.

Rossi also credits her mentor George Straznitskas, who once qualified for the U.S. Olympic marathon trials, for guiding her on the path of marathon running and encouraging her to enter triathlons.

Her competitive nature is almost as big as her heart, as Rossi has used her running to raise funds for numerous non-profit organizations in the borough.

“My first race was on Sept. 11, 2011, running in the Bob Veillette 5K,” Rossi said. “I challenged the Naugatuck Fire Department and the police department to raise money for 9/11. My goal was to raise $1,000, and I was astonished that the total was $2,303. I was hoping to finish in 30 minutes but towards the end my goal was just to finish, and I came in with a time of 27:14. Even though I was sick as a dog during the race, I was hooked.”

In her second race a month later, Rossi showed her competitive nature in the St. Vincent DePaul 5K and medaled with a second-place finish in her age group.

2012 brought on a whole new set of challenges as Rossi placed 85th in the St. Patrick’s Day 5K in Naugatuck. In April 2012 she entered her first half marathon in Cheshire and finished 86th among female runners. Four more races finished out the year, but the highlight was the Hartford Marathon where she raised $4,795 for the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank.

The following year Rossi upped the stakes.

“I started to think about taking it to the next level and entering a triathlon in 2013,” Rossi said. “That would mean I needed a swim coach.”

Coleman set Rossi up with Mary Raceivicius, a coach at Post University.

“I went in for a session and afterwards she told me, you swim like a runner. Stop beating up the water and learn to be in Zen with the water. She is very intense and she really challenges me but that’s what I love about her,” Rossi said.

In April 2013 Rossi wanted to find out where she was in her training and entered the Cheshire half marathon again. The training paid off as she improved from an 86th place finish to 14th place in her age group.

The Whittemore Library was the benefactor of her next endeavor. Rossi raised $2,619 and finished fifth in her age bracket at her very first Pat Griskus Olympic Triathlon at Quassapaug in Middlebury.

“What made that so special for me was it was Father’s Day and my dad was there to cheer me on,” Rossi said. “I train up to seven days a week with my husband Ray using a kayak to spot me while I swim at Quassy. On the other days I go for a brisk 25 to 50 mile bike ride, and I run to the Blast Fitness from my house and then run back.”

In 2014, Rossi upped the ante and her training again in preparation for her first half ironman completion.

In May she took part in the Ragner Relay on Cape Cod, a 200 mile run with a team of 12 runners from Hull, Mass. to Provincetown, Mass.

In June Rossi finished her first Rev3 Half Ironman at Quassy with a 1.2 mile swim, a 13.1 mile run and a 56 mile bike ride. She completed the course in 6 hours and 30 minutes.

“The Ragner Relay was one of my bucket list events,” Rossi said. “It was a great experience and I’m proud of my accomplishment finishing the half ironman.”

On June 15 Rossi participated again in the Pat Griskus Olympic Triathlon and medaled with a third-place finish in her age group.

“When I crossed the finish line it was a mixture of emotions from crying to total exhilaration,” Rossi said. “It’s all about your PB (personal best time) and I knew I did well but it’s very humbling to be competing against such tremendous athletes.

“My daughter Ally is always there to cheer me on and calm me down. I wanted to stay to watch the ceremony so Ray and the boys left. When they ever called my name as a medalist I was in a state of shock.”

Rossi called her dad first to share the news then Raceivicius as tears streamed down her face.

“I wouldn’t have been there without Mary it was such an emotional experience for me,” She said.

The year 2014 is not over by a long shot. Rossi is looking to go the extra mile as she has the New York City Marathon on her schedule for Nov. 1.

“If you told me three years ago that I would be doing this at this level I would have laughed you right out of the room,” Rossi said.

No one is laughing now.