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December 7, 2012

RUNNING DOWN A DREAM Peabody's Rocha chases national title with pedigree, humility

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Rocha has smooth, even running style. She has speed — a Mass. All-State indoor meet record 4:50.38 mile time — and endurance in the form of a Bradley Palmer State Park record of 17:22 in the 5K.

“She’s a smart runner. She knows her strengths and weaknesses and uses that. The quality of her running is unbelievable,” said Joe Rocha.

MORE THAN A RUNNER

It’s easy to look at Rocha’s agenda and wonder where she finds the time for long training runs. She’s been Peabody High’s class secretary all four years, and spent the afternoon before flying to San Diego scouting sites for the senior prom. She’s a National Honor Society member who ranks in the top 10 percent of her class.

Rocha is a peer mediator and participates in a sports program with special needs kids weekly. She made her dad beam with pride when she returned to the cross country course shortly after a race to make sure special needs students knew which way to run.

“It’s a lot for her to juggle, and we’re very proud of her for those things,” said Joe Rocha. “The middle school kids really look up to her; it’s unbelievable to see little girls lining our trails to watch them run.”

The Division 1 All-State team championship won by Peabody this fall — the program’s first in 20 years — is closer to Rocha’s heart than any race she’s won on her own.

“They’re my motivation. That support from the girls, and the boys, on the cross country team is what made me fall in love with track,” said Rocha, who was craning her neck to see how her teammates were doing while answering questions from reporters after winning the Division 1 All-State race at Northfield Mountain in November.

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