In its 27th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with ESPN HS, today announced Catarina Rocha of Peabody High School as its 2011-12 Gatorade Massachusetts Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year. Rocha is the first Gatorade Massachusetts Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year to be chosen from Peabody High School.
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the racecourse, distinguishes Rocha as Massachusetts’s best high school girls cross country runner. Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year award to be announced in January.
The 5-foot-4 junior captured third place at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional championships this past season with a time of 18:19.9. Rocha also qualified for the national Foot Locker Cross Country Championships where she finished in seventh place, crossing the line in 17:38. The 2011-12 Boston Globe All-Scholastic co-Runner of the Year, she won the Division I individual state championship with a time of 18:12.
Rocha has maintained an A average in the classroom. An officer in her school’s student council, she has volunteered locally as a peer tutor on behalf of Challenger Sports, an area physical activity program for children with special needs.
“Catarina Rocha is a leader on her team and in the classroom,” said Peabody athletic director Phil Sheridan. “I have had the opportunity to watch her in all facets of life and she is very serious about her training, her studies and her commitment to helping others.”
Other New England recipients:
CONNECTICUT - REID WATSON, GLASTONBURY
The 5-foot-4 senior raced to the State Open individual championship this past season with a time of 18:35. Watson also won the Class LL state title, breaking the tape in 19:03, and took first at the Hartford Riverfront Invitational, the Stratton Brook Invitational and the Central Connecticut Conference Championships. Watson finished 15th at the New England Cross Country Championships and earned 25th at the Nike Cross Nationals Northeast Regional championships.
Watson has maintained a 3.64 GPA in the classroom. A peer tutor in her school, she has volunteered locally on behalf of youth sports programs and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America in addition to fundraising to benefit the American Cancer Society.
“Having Reid on the team is like having another coach,” said Glastonbury head coach Brian Collins. “She’s been a great inspiration to all levels of runners. She took over a young and inexperienced team and helped guide them to a very successful season.”
Watson remains undecided upon a collegiate destination.
MAINE - ABBEY LEONARDI, KENNEBUNK
The 5-foot-1 senior raced to a fourth consecutive Class A individual state championship this past season with a time of 18:27.19. The state’s three-time returning Gatorade Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year, Leonardi placed second at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional championships in 18:05.7 in addition to finishing fourth at the national Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in 17:35.3. Also the four-time Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year as named by the Maine Sunday Telegram, she captured first place at the Maine Cross Country Festival of Champions and Western Maine Class A Regional Cross Country Championship Meet this past fall. With her three Gatorade State Track & Field Athlete of the Year trophies, Leonardi becomes the first athlete from any state to win Gatorade honors seven times in the award program’s 27-year history.
Leonardi has maintained an A average in the classroom. In addition to donating her time as a member of her school’s Captain’s Club to promote healthy lifestyle choices among her peers and area youth student-athletes, she has volunteered as part of fundraising efforts on behalf of displaced civilians in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.
“Abbey is the most focused athlete I have seen through my many years in this profession,” said Kennebunk High head coach Mike Dinehart. “Her practice regimen is a model for any athlete who wants to succeed. Not only does she challenge herself to garner the requisite hours to perform at such a high level, she is also able to apply that same work ethic to academics.”
Leonardi has verbally committed to an athletic scholarship at the University of Oregon beginning this fall.
NEW HAMPSHIRE - COURTNEY HAWKINS, MILFORD
The 5-foot-1 junior raced to the Meet of Champions individual state championship this past season with a time of 18:34.1. The Runner of the Year as named by the Nashua Telegraph, Hawkins placed 13th at the New England Cross Country Championships in 18:52 in addition to finishing 30th at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional championships in 19:35.8. Hawkins captured first place at the Manchester Invitational large school race. She finished 21st at the 2010 Meet of Champions as a sophomore.
Hawkins has maintained a 3.71 GPA in the classroom. A member of the National Honor Society and National Art Honor Society, she has volunteered locally at a summer day camp, as part of a holiday gift-giving campaign and on behalf of the St. Joseph Hospital Breast Care Center. Hawkins has also donated her time in association with conservation land cleanup efforts, with Project Linus to benefit needy children and as a youth athletic instructor. She has served as a fundraiser for the Gate City Striders track program, New England Pediatric Care and the American Cancer Society.
“Courtney is a true gem,” said Milford High head coach Mike Wright. “Not only is she a great athlete, but she is extremely coachable, dedicated, and loved by her opponents.”
RHODE ISLAND - MOLLY KEATING, LA SALLE ACADEMY
The 5-foot-4 senior raced to a third consecutive All-State Meet individual championship this past season with a time of 18:25, leading the Rams to second place as a team. A three-time First Team All-State selection as named by the Providence Journal, Keating placed second at the New England Cross Country Championships in 18:11 in addition to finishing 10th at the Nike Cross Nationals Northeast Regional in 19:09.9. She also captured first place at the 2009 and 2010 Class A meet as a sophomore and junior.
Keating has maintained an A average in the classroom. She has volunteered locally on behalf of her church, her school’s peer-mentoring program and multiple charity-fundraiser road races.
“One of the things I can easily say about her is that throughout her entire career, she’s had a tremendous, tremendous work ethic,” said Jim Doyle, head boys cross country coach at Bishop Hendricken High. “At one point, she had a terrible setback when she suffered a stress fracture, but she overcame that, rebounded again this year and was outstanding all year long. That’s the way she’s been for four years. I’ve always been impressed with her.”
Keating remains undecided upon a collegiate destination.
VERMONT- ELLE PURRIER, RICHFORD
The 5-foot-3 junior raced to her second straight Division 3 individual state championship this past season, breaking the tape in 19:11.9. The state’s returning Gatorade Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year, Purrier won the New England Cross Country Championships with a time of 18:01 and the Nike Cross Nationals Northeast Regional championship in 18:30.6. She also earned titles at the Essex Invitational, the Harwood Invitational, the Burlington Invitational and the Northern Vermont Athletic Conference Championships.
Purrier has maintained a 3.93 GPA in the classroom. She has volunteered locally on behalf of youth track programs and has delivered care baskets to elderly residents of the community.
“Elle is able to push herself unlike any student-athlete I’ve ever met,” said Richford head coach Andrew Hathaway. “The push comes from within, whether or not there’s a watch on her.”