By Jean DePlacido
---- — Abbey D’Agostino made history Saturday afternoon, while Catarina Rocha helped Providence College win a national title at the NCAA Division 1 Cross Country National Championships at Indiana State University in Terre Haute.
Topsfield’s D’Agostino, a senior captain at Dartmouth College, became the first Ivy League cross country champion (male or female). She used a superb finish to beat her nearest competitor, Emma Bates of Boise State, in a time of 20:00.3 over the 6K LaVern Gibson Course at Wabash Valley Family Sports Center.
D’Agostino had to put on a late burst to come from behind and overtake Kate Avery of Iona, who shot out to a big lead while the rest of the pack hung back. But the former high school superstar at Masconomet Regional overtook the leader and outran everyone in the final 2,000 meters.
This has been a sensational year for D’Agostino, who has now won five national championships in three track seasons (1,500 and 3,000 indoors, 5,000 outdoors and two cross country titles). That’s two more individual crowns than any Ivy League track athlete has ever earned.
D’Agostino, recently named the Northeast Regional Athlete of the Year by the USTFCCCA (United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association) for the third time, is a 10-time All-American and counting, with two more seasons to go before she graduates from Dartmouth.
Providence College won the women’s national championship with the help of Rocha, a freshman from Peabody. She was the Friars’ fourth finisher in Terre Haute, taking 62nd place overall in 20:59.
The Friars, who were ranked No. 1 in the country coming into the race, finished with 141 points.
The weather was less than ideal, but runners braved the cold and wind on the rain-soaked course. Rocha’s parents, Joe and Gina, were on hand to watch their daughter and her team celebrate.
“It was pretty cold and windy with an awful lot of mud on the course,” said Rocha. “There were some good-sized puddles, too, nothing like anything we had run in before this season, but you go out and do your best.
“For me personally, it was an honor to run and contribute. It’s an unbelievable feeling to be part of it and a very cool experience.”
Admitting it was “nerve-wracking” knowing Providence was the top team coming into the race, Rocha met her goal of running to her potential and getting points for the Friars.
Rocha was also excited to see a woman from the North Shore win the event, especially since she has followed D’Agostino’s All-American career.
“It was really exciting to have someone from where you are from win the race,” Rocha said. “I’m so happy for her.”
A standout at Peabody High, Rocha said it was easy making the transition to college because all of her teammates were so welcoming right from preseason.
“I think it’s good to go from being one of the top performers on a team to learning to fit in at the next level,” said the highly recruited athlete. “Everyone on my team is so close, and they welcomed me. I think one of the reasons we did so well this season is because of the great chemistry on this team. It’s been a wonderful experience: meeting my teammates, adjusting to school and making a contribution.”
On the men’s side, Middlebury senior captain Greg Krathwohl from Ipswich was 16th overall and first Panther to cross the finish line at the Division 3 nationals at Hanover College in Indiana.
Krathwohl ran the 8K in 25:05 to help his team finish seventh, the best finish in school history. With his performance, Krathwohl earned ALL-American status.