SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

August 28, 2013

Fantasy Matchups: Flanagan, Rocha had skill, competitive fire in common

Legendary American distance runner Steve Prefontaine once said, “A lot of people run a race to see who’s the fastest. I run to see who has the most guts.”

Prefontaine passed away long before Marblehead’s Shalane Flanagan and Peabody’s Catarina Rocha were even born. But if he had the chance to see either run, it’s unlikely that he would have paid much attention to their times.

Flanagan was a rare talent for the Marblehead Magicians, dominating in cross country and on the track before graduating in 2000. She was a three-time All-State champion in cross country and still holds the outdoor All-State meet record in the 2-mile (10:24.21), among many other records and accomplishments.

Rocha was equally impressive for Peabody High, wrapping up a record-setting high school career last spring. She won two All-State championships in cross country, was a two-time All-American after placing seventh (junior year) and second (senior year) at the Foot Locker Cross Country Nationals in San Diego, and holds the indoor All-State mile record (4:49.14).

During their high school years, they each carved out their place among the best female runners in Massachusetts high school history, both on the track and on the cross country courses of the North Shore and beyond.

They share many similarities, from the records they set, broke, and re-broke, to their family histories that make it seem like running is in their blood.

But ask anyone who watched both run in high school and “guts” — as Prefontaine put it — is the special ingredient that everyone comes back to.

So what would happen if you could take the senior year versions of both Shalane Flanagan and Catarina Rocha, put them on an empty cross country course and just let them go?

Their natural skill and speed would make it a race any sports fan would love to see. Mix in their determination to conquer the course in front of them and the opponent beside them, and it would become epic.

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