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CROSS-COUNTRY NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

Peabody junior Rocha captures seventh place

By Bianca Buono
Globe Correspondent / December 11, 2011
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Catarina Rocha of Peabody returned to San Diego yesterday for the Foot Locker Cross-Country National Championships, determined to top her time of last year. And she did.

Rocha finished seventh in the girls’ 5-kilometer race at Morley Field-Balboa Park in 17 minutes 38 seconds, the third-best time in the Northeast.

“Last year, I came in 31st and my time was 18 minutes 19 seconds,’’ said the junior. “Knowing the course a little better helped. This year I knew what I was going to do. I didn’t go out as fast as last year.’’

The girls’ race, with a field of 40 runners, was won by Molly Seidel of Hartland, Wis., in 17:22.

Rocha started running cross-country last year and is now thinking about her future in the sport.

“My goals for next year include doing good in the state meets,’’ she said. “Regionals and nationals are a bonus.’’

She does not have plans for college yet but hopes to continue her running career after high school.

In the boys’ 5-kilometer race, won by Newark’s Edward Cheserek in 14:52, three Massachusetts runners competed. Joel Hubbard, a senior from Marshfield, wasn’t satisfied with his time of 16:10 and 35th-place finish but stayed positive.

“I’m happy with qualifying,’’ Hubbard said. “I didn’t come in last place, which is good. I could have done better but I’m not frowning on it.’’

Hubbard was happy to be accompanied by two familiar faces in the field of 40 boys.

“It was awesome,’’ Hubbard said. “We’ve all been hanging out, having a good time. Overall it’s been a great experience.’’

“They treated us like rock stars,’’ said Jonathan Green, a junior at St. John’s of Shrewsbury who finished 22d in 15:46. “It was wicked cool because you have the top 80 runners in the nation here.’’

Just one second behind Green was Chris Allen. The King Philip senior called it an “awesome’’ experience.

“We’re staying at the best hotel in San Diego and you get to meet all of these great runners,’’ Allen said. “My eyes were wide open the whole time.’’

The Massachusetts runners were surprised by the San Diego weather.

“I’m not really used to it being in the 60s in December,’’ Allen said.

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