Runner Wears Medal for her Dad

May 17, 2006

Runner wears medal for her dad
By John Zant

May 14, 2006 7:34 AM

NORTHRIDGE -- It was almost the way James Rothstein had imagined it.

His daughter stood on the winner's podium, tears in her eyes, and a medal dangling from her neck.

"My dad trained me for the Olympics when I was 4," UCSB junior Stephanie Rothstein said.

The Olympics may be a long way off, but Stephanie was a champion runner this weekend -- twice -- after grinding out victories in the 10,000 and 5,000 meters at the Big West Track and Field Championships.

She wore the medal during both races. It was a silver disk bearing an impression of her father's thumb print.

The last time Stephanie saw her father alive was in December of 2001. He was at a hospice in New York, ailing with prostate cancer. She went to visit him again the following February. She first went for a run in Long Island. "I had a weird feeling," she said.

James Rothstein might have been glad to know that Stephanie was training when he died.

Among the thousands of memories that he left behind were these words to his daughter: "You're going to break five minutes in the mile."

She was a senior at Xavier Prep in Phoenix, and that spring she ran the mile in 4:58, finishing second in the Arizona championships.

Rothstein joined a strong group of distance runners at UCSB. She was outstanding in cross country, winning the Big West title in 2003 as a sophomore.

That year, she rode an emotional roller coaster. The microchip business that her father had built went bankrupt during his illness, leaving the family with diminished resources. Her mother, Joan, sold their 5,000-square-foot home and moved into a townhouse in Scottsdale. It became apparent that they could not afford UCSB's out-of-state tuition. "I didn't know what to do," Joan said.

Mark Patton wrote about their plight in the News-Press, and an anonymous benefactor came forth and funded Stephanie's education at UCSB.

"We got the news at a meet in Riverside," Joan said. "(UCSB coach) Pete Dolan told Stephanie and me. All three of us were crying. Our knees were buckling. Pete said: 'I'm not a religious man. That all stops today.' "

Stephanie continued to excel in cross country, but injuries plagued her during the track season. Dolan told her to ease up on her training this year, and she made a big breakthrough at the Stanford Invitational. She ran the 10,000 in 33 minutes, 27 seconds -- a school record by 11/2 minutes and the 10th fastest time in the NCAA.

At the Big West meet, she just ran to win. The 10,000 was Friday evening, and she came back Saturday afternoon to win the 5,000.

"I call this a guts race," Rothstein said. "What do you have left?"

She had a lot more than meets the eye.

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