The Peabody High senior and 5-time Massachusetts all-state champion was one of the most experienced runners in the Foot Locker field, having qualified in all three of her cross country seasons. The race features 40 runners, the top ten from each of four regional races. Rocha won the Northeast Regional two weeks ago.
What was the most memorable part of the three year Foot Locker odyssey, that includes several days in San Diego, meeting accomplished US national runners and all kinds of running gear?
“Everything here is awesome. The places, the people you meet, making friends with girls from other regions,” said Rocha. “It’s cool to see some people year after year, and maybe if you keep running in college, you’ll see them along the way again.”
Rocha’s plaque from the Foot Locker folks had a special touch this year, including the names of her parents, Joe and Gina, and the years they competed in the national championships. Joe Rocha, the Peabody cross country coach, ran for New Bedford in 1982 and mom Gina was 21st in 1984.
“It’s awesome to have them here to support me. I know they’re there for me no matter what place I come in,” Rocha said in the winner’s circle after the race.
Girls from Massachusetts have finished in the top-10 at Foot Locker nationals just nine times. Three of those instances came out of Peabody High with Rocha in 2011 and 2012 and Leslie Welch running 8th at the first race in 1979.
Rocha and Lexington alum Natasha Roetter are the only Bay State girls to top-10 at Foot Locker twice.
Saturday’s national final, which began at 9:15 pacific time, saw Marissa Williams cut out ahead of the pack with a fast pace to start. Rocha, wearing a black Northeast jersey, stuck with a pack of Midwest runners as the leaders finished the first mile in 5:18.