Catarina Rocha has already outdone both her parents in their respective appearances in the national cross country championships 30 years ago. Saturday, she has a chance again to shine as one of the best female high school distance runners in the country.
Rocha, a senior at Peabody High and coached by her dad Joe, will make her third straight appearance in the Foot Locker Cross Country Nationals on Dec. 8 in San Diego's Balboa Park. Rocha enters the race as the Northeast Regional Champion after dusting the field two weeks ago.
Prior to that, she collected her second straight Massachusetts cross country title.
MileSplit, in a preview of Saturday's race, pegs Rocha with a shot a winning and at least finishing in the top three, noting she's coming to San Diego with 31st- and then 7th-place finishes in 2010 and 2011.
"And 2012’s been her best year yet, beginning with track PRs of a 4:50.38 mile and 10:45.50 2-mile," reports MileSplit.
Humble as ever, Rocha tells MileSplit she didn’t expect to win the Northeast Regional and doesn't have specific expectations for Nationals, other than to run the best race she can. “I just want to run the race I usually run... If I can get top seven or top fourteen, that would be great,” she said.
Her performance at last year's nationals did earn her All-American honors with a time of 17:38.
MileSplit now has Rocha ranked No. 4 in the country, as of Dec. 3, and she only shows signs of improving on her time, as she has successively done throughout her high school career.
Mom Gina (Braz) Rocha placed 21st in 1985 and dad Joe took 15th in 1982.
Foot Locker says the 5,000-meter course at Balboa Park has launched the professional careers of a number of elite runners, including Olympians Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi and Kara Goucher.
The 34th Annual Foot Locker Cross Country National Championships will be streamed live online at www.footlockercc.com, starting at 8:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. Foot Locker will also be posting live Twitter updates on its feed -- @FLRun, #FLCCC.