C.H. East's Cattuna girds for spotlight

Posted: April 23, 2007

Theresa Cattuna, like all distance runners, is known for endurance. However, will the Cherry Hill High School East senior be able to endure the pressure at the 113th running of the Penn Relays?

Even though Cattuna competed on Franklin Field's storied track as a middle-school anchor years ago, the 18-year-old isn't sure how she'll react while running in an individual event there for the first time on Thursday evening.

Thousands of screaming fans, many with flashing cameras, will likely witness her event: the girls' 3,000-meter championship.

Her opponents are a formidable group from many states. Last year, Erin Keogh of Langley (Va.) won in 9 minutes, 31.1 seconds.

Cattuna's personal-best time in the 3,200 is 10:42.42, which made her runner-up in the state indoor track championship in the winter.

"This will be my first time running in front of such a large audience [in an individual event]," Cattuna said. "I'm excited to do it. I have been there, and I know the feeling, a rush, running in front of a large crowd. But you have to watch not to get caught up in the excitement and lose your pace.

"My goal, because I have never run a 3,000, is looking to place and earn a medal. I looked at the competition, and most have similar times to me.

"It will be fun to get out there but just as hard to run in front of so many people and keep focus. It's great preparation for college running."

Notre Dame will be watching Cattuna's race, too, because she'll be joining the Irish cross-country and track teams in the fall. In February, Cattuna accepted a full ride to the university in South Bend, Ind.

Meanwhile, the honors student has been preparing mentally and physically for the big race. She's been doing endurance work, some speed training, and tempo workouts. The veteran distance runner, who has been competing in cross-country and track since the sixth grade, has visualized herself starting a little faster than she does in a two-mile race but maintaining a steady pace throughout.

"I have practiced, so I know the pace I want," said Cattuna, the only distance runner in a family of sprinters. "I wanted to run [at Franklin Field] in an individual event. The 3,000 is a fun race and a great opportunity against good competition in this part of the season. It's good for the important stuff at the end of the season, like the state meet and the Meet of Champions."

Cattuna, who has never won a major cross-country or track meet, is the only individual from her school competing at Franklin Field. However, she'll be joined by East's 1,600- and 400-meter relay teams.

Failure to come in first hasn't diminished Cattuna's appetite for tough competition. And it hasn't kept the 5-foot-4 runner from breaking school records.

Last year, Cattuna broke the 20-year-old 800 record of Kathy Jacobs by eclipsing her time of 2:23 with a 2:18. The Cherry Hill resident, whose brother, Mark, 20, sprinted for the Cougars and whose sister, Maddie, 16, still does, said she also broke Lori Watson's 30-year-old record of 10:54 in the 3,200 with that 10:42.42 in the state meet.

If there is one thing that impresses Cattuna's high school coach, Lee Troutman, it's what he calls "her great internal drive," which was epitomized in a recent race.

"At the [recent] West Deptford Relays, she anchored the 4x800," Troutman said. "She was probably a good half lap behind the first-place team, pounded out the 800, and won by about 15 meters.

"She's ferocious on the track."


Contact staff writer Bill Iezzi at 856-779-3826 or biezzi@phillynews.com.

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