By Marty Farmer
The Riverside-Brookfield High School boys cross country team accomplished a lot last season. Led by a strong senior class, the Bulldogs won conference, regional and sectional titles and finished 11th at the Class 2A state meet.
"Replacing Mateo Nunez's ability and leadership will be tough," RBHS coach Larry Forberg said. "The dedication of runners like Evan Jones, Nathan Palmer, Manny Sida and Matt Zamudio also will be missed."
Fortunately, RBHS returns a trio of strong runners looking to build off last year's success. Connor O'Brien and Jacob Wardzala earned all-conference, all-regional and all sectional recognition in 2016, while Jack Sagan was an all-conference/all-regional runner.
"Jack, Conor and Jacob had a great summer of workouts," Forberg said. "They are eager to show their talent."
Ryan Hahn, Jason Noel and Angel Alarcon will contribute as well this fall.
"Ryan was our number seven [runner] last year," Forberg said. "Jason ran great until he required foot surgery and Angel had a terrific track season."
Juniors Evan Dunbar, Zach Picton, Chris Magno and David Keen bring depth to the lineup. Keep an eye also on sophomore Steve Hailey, who ran well during the Bulldogs' summer running camp.
The rest of the varsity team includes Vincent Galvan, Luis Galvez, William Moguel, Conor Raymond and Brendan Shakeshaft.
RBHS opened the 2017 season with a first-place varsity finish at Elmwood Park. The junior varsity took fourth place.
"There were concerns about a drop off with Mateo graduating, but the varsity team ran faster this year than last year," Forberg said. "With a strong season, this team could move into the Top 10 in the state."
The Bulldogs also competed in the Mike Kuharic Invitational hosted by Lyons Township High School. RBHS, the lone Class 2A representative in the field, finished ninth with a team score of 220.
Wardzala (22nd place/15 minutes, 58.04 seconds), O'Brien (25th/16:02.91) and Sagan (30th/16.12.08) each recorded a top-30 showing at the prestigious invite which features some of the best 3A teams in the state.
The host Lions, who finished fourth at the 3A state meet in 2016, won the Kuharic Invite with 53 points.
LTHS senior Danny Kilrea took first with a time of 14:10.25 over the three-mile course.
Lowell (83), Downers Grove South (88), Sandburg, Oswego East/Maine South (5th place tie/132 each) rounded out the top five teams.
RBHS girls cross country
The Bulldogs placed sixth at the Kuharic Invite. RBHS junior Tara Janney finished seventh with a time of 18:43.49, while teammate Hailey Jurgens took 23rd at 19:45.54.
Cora Lutes (43rd/21.06.21), Melissa Oliveira-Liz (47th/21:15.94), Niela Callanan (48th/21:16.96) and Emma Fortman (48th/21:19.75) also contributed for RBHS.
The RBHS boys and girls teams return home Friday, Sept. 15 to host the 58th Annual RB Invite at Sundown Meadows Forest Preserve in Countryside at 4:30 p.m.