Running fast and winning races are important to Red Bank Catholic standout Cate DeSousa, just like they are to any other distance runner – but there is something even more important to the Casey senior, and that is competing, pushing herself to her limits.
“The worst feeling is walking off the track and having regrets,” she explained. “You have to give it all you’ve got. Walking off the track and knowing I did my best is a great feeling.”
DeSousa has had that great feeling often during her distinguished RBC career, having won state championships in cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field. She goes into her senior season with impressive personal bests of 2:11.63 for 800 meters, 4:49.06 for 1,600 and 10:25.54 for 3,200 plus a 5K cross country best of 17:29.56.
This year, DeSousa wants to push those limits even further by leaving her comfort zone and putting herself in territory she hasn’t been in before in races, not fearing the outcome.
“I’m going to put myself out there and take risks in races,” she said. “That sweetens the reward.”
Competition is another way to be pushed, and DeSousa welcomes it. She knows, even with state championship triumphs, there is no lack of competition. There’s no standing still.
“In a state like New Jersey, there’s always more to achieve,” she remarked. “Everyone is getting better. It’s amazing to see this kind of competition. It’s fun to have. It’s only going to help me being pushed.”
For DeSousa, the competition begins at the county level where this year’s championship meet will feature outdoor Meet of Champions medalists Freehold Township’s Emma Zawatski (first, 1,600), St. Rose’s Tilly O’Connor (third, 1,600) and Middletown South’s Rosemary Shay (third, 3,200).
“I like having a lot of girls to compete with,” she remarked.
DeSousa spent her summer at home, running hills and uneven terrain to prepare for the cross country season.
“I love them both,” said the champion Casey of cross country and track. “I’m equally comfortable running the 5K or the 800 and 1,600. I love the environments of cross country and personally I love Holmdel [Park]. It’s a really fun course to run.”
Heading into her final high school cross country season, DeSousa is a more confident runner than she was a year ago when she was All-State while winning her Group state title and finishing 10th at the Meet of Champions. Not only does she have the advantage of three years of experience competing against the state’s best, but she has an added confidence boost from having run the 3,200 meters on the track in that swift 10:25.54. That made her realize she can hold a faster pace in the longer 5,000-meter cross country race.
“I’ve been working on my overall fitness, getting a solid base, and running a fast 3,200 will help in the transition to cross country,” said DeSousa of her preparations for 2022.
In workouts, the RBC star prefers quality over quantity. She’s not big on mileage for mileage’s sake.
“I’m big on quality miles,” she remarked. “I love 1K repeats. It’s a quick test of your fitness. It has the speed of an 800 but requires endurance as well.”
It’s her combination of endurance and finishing speed that makes her one of the state’s best distance runners.
As for her individual goals this fall, the Casey would like to defend her Non-Public A state championship and contend for the MOC crown. She’d also like to run against the country’s best.
“I’d love to go to one of the [Northeast] Regional meets and make it to the nationals,” she said.
There is an added motivation for DeSousa. Being a senior means every big race – be it invitational, county, conference or state meet – will be her last for each one.
“I’m going to cherish it all I can,” she said.
Running for a storied program has provided an extra push for DeSousa. It made her set her goals high she said.
“It’s awesome to see everyone who has gone through RBC,” she pointed out. “Coach Rob DeFilippis does a great job. It’s so competitive. It was inspiring seeing my name in the top 20 [times at RBC] for the first time.”
DeSousa is all over those lists, leaving her own legacy alongside the likes of Molly McNamara, Lianna Marzano and Lindsey Bellaran.
There are team goals as well for DeSousa this fall.
“Running for a team is very important,” she noted. “It really helps. We enjoy each other, and I’m excited about the season.”
With five of their seven starters returning, winning another RBC team state championship is well within reach, especially with a runner of DeSousa’s caliber up front.