Someday, a Rockland County athlete may eclipse Jodi Schlesinger Salsberg’s records.
That athlete might have to suspend the laws of gravity to do it, though.
How else to follow a celestial act that hasn’t remotely been approached, never mind replicated? Bounding into triple-jump immortality, here was Jodi – far from the fleetest, tallest or strongest athlete in the field but surely the most skilled and technically proficient. The girl from Clarkstown South who loved coming to practice each day rehearsed those jumping drills probably thousands of times, like a great actress sweating the details, never supremely satisfied no matter how monumental the performance.
Jodi monopolized her event as no Rockland athlete ever has. She won an unprecedented three national scholastic championships and seven New York State titles, including four straight triple jumps outdoors and one long jump. On top of that, Jodi captured two national Junior Olympic crowns, in the Youth and Intermediate divisions, 14 Rockland County and 13 Section 1 Class A gold medals, three Loucks Games trophies, two Golden West Invitational medals and four finalist appearances at the Penn Relays.
In all, Jodi claimed 75 major meet championships, including 50 in the triple jump, and became the first athlete, male or female, to win the same event (outdoor triple jump) five straight years at the County meet. Thus it’s no surprise the award presented to the County meet’s outstanding field-event performer is named in honor of Jodi.
A title, once attained, can never be taken away. The “awards” room in the Schlesinger home in Bardonia attests to the array of championships Jodi accrued during her six-year high school career. Records are usually more transitory, but not so much in her case. She still holds five New York State class records in the triple jump and once held a sixth. Her outdoor mark of 41 feet 10.75 inches is more than a foot farther than any other Rockland girl and ranks No. 2 all-time statewide, and her indoor best of 40-8.75 is No. 4 on the state list. Jodi set national scholastic class records for a freshman (39-0.5) and sophomore (40-1.25) and a USATF age-group record for 13-14-year-olds (38-10.5), all of which have been broken. She also ranks as No. 5 Rocklander in the long jump both outdoors (18-11.5) and indoors (18-6.25).
Jodi was indoctrinated early in the fundamentals of running and jumping by her father, Don, a former Metropolitan IC sprint champion and record-holder at CCNY who later taught and coached track on the junior high level. Jodi was doing standing long jumps at age 4 and qualified for her first national competition, the Junior Olympics, at 9. By seventh grade, when she joined the South track team while a student at Felix Festa Middle School, she already had the earmarks of a difference-maker for the Vikings. The triple jump seemed to suit her intellectual, analytical and physical abilities perfectly.
“I was fast, but not pure sprinter fast,” Jodi says. “I was tall, but not high jumper tall, and I was strong and powerful, but not to an extreme. However, being pretty good on all of those fronts, and then combining it with being very good at the technical mechanics and understanding the physics involved in a triple jump, made for a combination of excellence.”
With so many notches in her belt, it’s hard for Jodi to single out one watershed moment. The national and state titles are way up there, of course, but so is the near-perfect senior year when her only loss occurred at the Penn Relays. The class records, County-meet naming honor and Clarkstown South Wall of Fame recognition also figure prominently as personal sources of pride, but none parallel the transforming impact made on her development by the South coaching staff – outdoor coach Giulia Duitz, indoor coach Ray Sussmann, and head coach/sprints coach Ray Kondracki.
“To say I had a positive experience and relationship is an understatement,” Jodi says. “I joined the high school team as a seventh grader and I was barely 12 years old. Sussmann, Duitz and Kondracki spent more time with me over the next six years than any other teachers or individuals I can think of outside of my own parents. They were like a second family to me, and my time with them influenced me not only as an athlete, but as a person.”
Jodi remains close to her former coaches at South. All three attended her wedding in 2005. Giulia Duitz was a bridesmaid, her children were the flower girl and ring bearer, and Jodi is godmother to her son. The coaches were also pillars of support helping Jodi through the death of her infant daughter, Lauren Juliet, in December 2010, and were there to help celebrate the birth of her son, Logan Robert, in January 2012.
Along with her coaches, Jodi’s teammates played an instrumental role in her unmatched success. Fellow jumper Kelly Barrett provided sound guidance and friendship to a young Jodi, who would later surpass her marks, and Paul Golando and Tommy Thothongkum, distinguished jumpers in their own right, also spent many hours together with Jodi in practice and at meets. “Part of the reason that I was successful is that I stuck with it and enjoyed training and going to practice,’ Jodi says. “That was 100 percent because of the coaches and teammates that I shared my time with.”
A model student-athlete, Jodi graduated from South as valedictorian of her class and attended Duke University on a full athletic scholarship – one of the first full-tuition scholarships for a women’s track and field athlete awarded by the school. Her jumping career at Duke was marred by a serious hamstring injury sustained at the outdoor Junior Nationals at the end of her senior year at South. She redshirted most of her freshman year at Duke and endured a prolonged recovery from the setback. Still, she did recapture some of the form that propelled her to prep stardom, setting still-standing school records in the triple jump outdoors (41-5.75) and indoors (40-3.5), receiving two All-East designations and winning the 2001 Duke Invitational.
After earning an economics degree from Duke – she graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa – Jodi went to work on Wall Street as an options trader at Morgan Stanley. Then, she served as a vice president in Goldman Sachs’ Structured Products group, in charge of the Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Houston and Dallas offices. Jodi, who is 32, met her husband, Aaron, on her first day of college at Duke and the couple will celebrate their eighth wedding anniversary next month. They reside in Nutley, N.J., with their 15-month-old son.
Jodi was inducted into the Clarkstown South Sports Hall of Fame in 2004, and was honored by the New York Jewish Sports Hall of Fame as the Jules D. Mazor Outstanding Jewish High School Athlete of the Year in her senior year. She also was enshrined in the Rockland County Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2012.