San Diego, CA - Being honored as an All-American has now become a tradition in the Rocha household. Catarina followed in the footsteps of her father and uncle Saturday; as she secured a place in the record books with a seventh place finish (17:37) at the Foot Locker Nationals in San Diego.
Most would think that an accomplishment of this magnitude was the result of meticulous race strategy planning. But for Rocha, and her coaches, it was more about removing the pressure and letting a talented athlete do what she does best……simply run.
“I just went out there and ran my own pace. I didn’t plan on even being in the top fifteen to be honest with you. I just felt good in the third mile, and just kind of went.”
Rocha truly showed her strength, weathering a very fast pace over the first two miles that immediately strung-out the field. Erin Flynn took the race out in 5:10 for the first mile and then held her foot on the gas to cross the two mile mark in 11:08. But the chase pack did not panic, and Rocha looked very comfortable in the center of the fray.
Opportunity knocked, as the combination of a tough early pace and two sizeable hills created a debt that several in the front pack could not cover. Rocha powered through the final 1000 meters by executing a nice transition to the final downhill section, and then proceeded to hold-off three challengers with the finish line in sight.
Her 7th place finish was a remarkable improvement from 2010. “Last year I got 31st and my time was like a minute slower than this year, so it felt really good to improve overall.”
The accomplishment caps a season that included a Massachusetts Division 1 State Championship, a third place finish at the Footlocker Northeast Regional Championships, and several course records along the way. In just her second year of cross country running, the Peabody junior has already established herself as one of the best in the nation. And if this year’s progression curve is any indication, her 2012 campaign should be just as remarkable.