Anticipation built throughout the girls mile at the Reggie Lewis Center Saturday morning, where the Massachusetts All-State championships were held.
Peabody’s Catarina Rocha was closing in history, and with each lap that she finished the eyes of spectators shifted between the clock and the track. Could the senior All-American break a 32-year-old school record?
The answer was yes.
Rocha won the mile in 4:49.14, about a half-second ahead of Lisa Welch’s school record 4:49.70 run at the Division 1 state meet in 1981.
The victory made it back-to-back state mile titles for Rocha, and six consecutive Massachusetts championships across all three seasons of track.
The time was a personal best and is the fifth-fastest time ever run by a high school girl from the Bay State. It was also the fastest girls mile ever run at an MIAA championship event.
“When you break a record that’s 32 years old, held by someone like Lisa Welch, you know you’ve done something special,” said Peabody coach Joe Rocha, Catarina’s father. “She was close at the coaches elite meet (4:50.39). Her goal was to win and to be better than last year.”
Rocha’s mental concentraion to stay on pace and hit her quarter and half-mile splits, even though she was well ahead of the field, were impressive. She certainly drew inspiration from the Reggie Lewis Center crowd.
“To run a time like that leading from the first lap is hard. She’s really tough and responded well,” said Joe Rocha. “As a coach I’m just trying to make sure she knows where she is with the splits, but the energy in the building was great. Everyone knew she was on pace and she felt it.”
Danvers senior Drew Piazza finished third in the 600 with a time of 1:23.34. He ran in the unseeded heat, finishing first, with a time good enough to supplant several of the runners in the fast heat.