Boston High School: Andrea Keklak

Peabody's Rocha an unassuming star

September, 25, 2012
Catarina Rocha’s philosophy about her craft just may come as somewhat of a shock to the people dialed into the Massachusetts high school running community.

The Peabody senior and defending Div. 1 state cross country champion has never yearned for the limelight that comes with being the best distance runner in the state and arguably one of the top five all-time. When all is said and done and Rocha moves on to college after graduation, she would rather Peabody High's teachers, students and her friends look back and recall her as a well-rounded person who just happened to be a runner.

Running doesn’t define who Rocha is. It’s just a part that makes up the whole person.

“I don’t want people to remember me as just a runner,” Rocha said. “I want to be thought of as someone who did a lot for the school and was a good person. I think I can bring those together and be a good person, overall. Running comes second. Being a good person is first. I just try to be myself.”

[+] EnlargeCatarina Rocha
Peter RufoPeabody's Catarina Rocha finished seventh at the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships in December. She eyes a return in 2012.
Rocha believes that wholeheartedly, but it doesn’t make her any less tough when the gun goes off. She is still the enormously competitive runner she was her sophomore year when she gave Lincoln-Sudbury’s Andrea Keklak all she could handle in placing second, dogging the Warrior great the entire way in the Div. 1 state title race on the grassy Gardner Golf Course layout.

That superb performance was just an inkling of things to come for the soccer transplant.

And then, last year, running as the overwhelming favorite, Rocha proved that the pressure of being the harrier everyone wanted a piece of didn’t bother her one iota. Racing over the Franklin Park course in perfect conditions, Rocha crushed a strong field and wound up with the fastest time of the day in 18:12. Longmeadow standout Camille Blackman had a great day in finishing second, but was never able to challenge Rocha, crossing the finish line in 18:42.

Not done yet, Rocha capped her season with a seventh place at the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships in December after taking third at the Northeast qualifier.

The chances of a Massachusetts runner bumping Rocha down to the No. 2 position this season is pretty much slim to none. Rocha took a solid month off after winning the 2-mile state title and recording a scalding 10:39 personal best at the Nike Nationals in June. She started back in earnest in August with the team Northeast Conference title first on the list of autumn goals. “I needed it,” she said of her time off in the summer. “I think everyone does.”

What’s more, Rocha looks physically stronger. Courtesy of a summer’s worth of core exercises that included pushups, crunches and sit-ups, Rocha’s shoulders, biceps and legs have a define, sculpted look. That added strength will be especially advantageous in the final half mile when she is driving for the finish line.

“I definitely feel a lot stronger and that can only help,” said Rocha.

The new season does offer challenges for Rocha. Unlike the Franklin Park course, she has limited to no racing experience on the Wrentham Developmental Center and Northfield Mountain courses, sites of the EMass and state championships, respectively.

Rocha, though, is confident the mix of fitness and experience will see her through. “Hopefully the (Northfield Mountain) hill won’t be a big deal,” shrugged Rocha. “We’ve all been training on hills and training well. Things are good. I’m running a little faster and doing a little more mileage but not that much more.”

If for some reason (i.e. sickness, injury) Rocha doesn’t capture a second state title she’ll simply move on. There are too many races to be run, Rocha believes, to dwell on the occasional off day. “If it happens, it happens,” she said of winning at Northfield. “If it doesn’t, you just move on to the next race and try to run well there There’s going to be a lot of competition. There are a lot of great runners out there.

“I take the dual meets one at a time and want to help the team win the NEC [Northeast Conference[. Hopefully, we can qualify for all-states. If I win there, great. If I don’t, I’ll move on to Foot Locker and try to run well there. It’s a big deal [repeating], but if I lose it’s not like anything bad is going to happen.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a dual meet or state meet, it’s all the same. I just go out and try to win. Sophomore year I wasn’t experienced. A little more experience now helps a lot. I’m not fully experienced yet, though. I have to wait until college for that.”

Weymouth pack claims girls' EMass X-C title

November, 13, 2010
BOSTON, Mass. – The Weymouth High girls’ cross country team won their first Eastern Mass. Division I title since 1979 -- and that was as Weymouth South.

The top five of the Wildcats’ pack ran within eight spots of each other, with a gap of just 45 seconds between No. 1 and No. 5 at Franklin Park on Saturday. The proximity of their finish came as no surprise to coach Mike Miller, as this year’s group has been a tight one in terms of performance and in camaraderie.

“They’re a very close group,” Miller said. “We have 43 kids here today and every kid in the program showed up. I didn’t want them to find out they’d won a state championship on Facebook.”

Weymouth accomplished the feat despite seeing Jill Corcoran, the Wildcats’ leading runner throughout the season, finish as its third runner. Bridget Jaklitsch picked up the pace to finish eight overall, tearing through the 5K in 19 minutes, 38 seconds. Morgan Fitzgibbon followed in ninth place, with Corcoran (13th), Molly Barker (16th) and Julie Tevenan (17th) not far behind.

“I told them that we don’t need to be perfect, we just need to be good,” Miller said. “I think a lot of times kids go into meets and think if something goes wrong, that’s it and they panic. We said that we weren’t going to panic and we were going to believe that we were the best team.”

Oh, and of course there teammates will be with them as always at All-States next Saturday in Gardner.

“I already told them, we’re getting a bus to Gardner next week,” Miller said with a laugh.

Peabody sophomore Catarina Rocha outlasted Kathy O’Keefe of Newton South to claim the Division I individual title in 18:35.

However, the outwardly poised youngster admitted she didn’t feel so confident headed into the race.

“I was really nervous,” Rocha said, “but after I started, I knew my nerves would calm down and everything would just happen.”

Rocha knew she was in for a battle with O’Keefe, whom she’d raced against in the mile at last year’s All-States. Rocha and O’Keefe paced each other through most of the course, until Rocha made her move coming out of the “Wilderness” portion of the course and continued to pour it on in the final 600.

The day’s most riveting finish was provided by Lincoln-Sudbury’s Andrea Keklak and Franklin’s Megan Ross in the Division II meet.

Keklak was coming off a win in last weekend’s MSTCA Invitational in Wrentham in the Division I junior/senior event, but ran in Division II with along with her L-S teammates in the districts’ new six-tier format.

Ross established the pace for the greater duration, only to see the defending All-State champion move past her with a blazing kick in the final 300. Keklak finished in 19:04, seven seconds ahead of Ross.

“She’s such a smart runner,” Ross said. “She paced off of me and she has an amazing kick.

“The pace wasn’t my favorite, it’s not how I usually like to run, but it was really more about the team and placing for All-States.”

Keklak emerged from the event with a healthy respect for the Hockomock League champion.

“It was a hard effort,” Keklak said. “Megan’s a really good competitor.”

1. Catarina Rocha, So., Peabody, 18:35
2. Kathy O’Keefe, Sr., Newton South, 18:41
3. Maggie Mullins, Jr., Andover, 18:52
4. Julie Solimine, Sr., Haverhill, 19:05
5. Erin Donovan, So., Lowell, 19:16


1. Weymouth, 63
2. Haverhill, 117
3. Newton South, 134
4. Lowell, 147
5. Andover, 151


1. Andrea Keklak, Sr., Lincoln-Sudbury, 19:04
2. Megan Ross, Sr., Franklin, 19:11
3. Lauren Columbare, Sr., Mansfield, 19:37
4. Alex Giese, So., Franklin, 19:38
5. Katie Ayers, Sr., Bridgewater-Raynham, 19:39


1. Lincoln-Sudbury, 49
2. Franklin, 63
3. Chelmsford, 120
4. Needham, 124
5. Billerica, 134

1. Laura Patriarce, Jr., Tewksbury, 18:56
2. Jessie Kaliski, Sr., Wellesley, 19:13
3. Priyanka Fouda, Jr., Wellesley, 19:28
4. Eva Lauer, Sr., Wellesley, 19:30
5. Katie Jessee, Sr., Concord-Carlisle, 19:47


1. Wellesley, 49
2. Concord-Carlisle, 96
3. Oliver Ames, 115
4. Whitman-Hanson, 155
5. Tewksbury, 160


1. Viviana Hanley, Sr., Bishop Feehan, 18:30
2. Jordan O’Dea, So., Dennis-Yarmouth, 18:38
3. Katie Powell, Jr., Bishop Feehan, 19:12
4. Heather Connick, Sr., Pembroke, 19:13
5. Chelsea Savage, Jr., Pembroke, 19:24


1. Bishop Feehan, 37
2. Pembroke, 126
3. Marblehead, 131
4. Hopkinton, 151
5. Milton, 187


1. Alison Lanois, Sr., Hamilton-Wenham, 19:11
2. Katie Powers, Sr., Cardinal Spellman, 19:21
3. Rebeca Morse, Jr., Pentucket, 19:23
4. Olivia Brackett, Jr., Weston, 19:26 T
5. Brianna Venturo, Sr., Coyle-Cassidy, 19:43


1. Hamilton-Wenham, 42
2. Weston, 60
3. Coyle-Cassidy, 138
4. Medfield, 195
5. Holliston 222


1. Lee Milne, So., Dover-Sherbon, 19:30
2. Sarah Keiran, So., Ipswich, 19:54
3. Jen Salit, Sr., Seekonk, 20:02
4. Arianna Maida, Fr., Bishop Fenwick, 20:14
5. Lizzy Briskin, Sr., Dover-Sherbon, 20:16


1. Dover-Sherborn, 58
2. Seekonk, 98
3. East Bridgewater, 158
4. Ipswich, 163
5. Norwell, 175