RBHS senior Kevin Faje, a four-year cross-country and track runner, provides plenty of leadership and talent for the Bulldogs, coming off one of their best seasons in school history. Faje is focused on qualifying for state in the 3,200 run this spring. (David Pierini/Staff Photographer)

The Riverside-Brookfield High School boys track and field team turned in its best season under coach Tim Olson last year, and one of the most successful campaigns in school history. For confirmation, just ask Glenbard South.

In addition to recording their best finish in a sectional meet (runner-up to Lyons Township in a 17-team field of the Class 3A playoffs) in the last 45 years, the Bulldogs set the tone for that noteworthy accomplishment by dethroning the aforementioned Raiders for the Metro Suburban Conference title. Rest assured conference runner-up status didn’t sit well with Glenbard South, which won a sectional last season and finished second in the state at the Class 2A finals in 2012.

However, to put a twist on the oft-used exercise motto, “The Raiders’ pain, was the Bulldogs’ gain.”

“[RBHS] Coach [Tim] Olson told us that people thought our  winning conference was an upset,” said RBHS senior Dan Curtin, “but we kind of took that as a chip on our shoulder. We knew the type of talent we had and we expected to win conference.”

Anchored by the return of Curtin and fellow standout seniors, Kevin Faje, Lewis Rogers, Gerrand Moody and Jack VandeMerkt, the Bulldogs once again carry high expectations into the spring season. With all due respect to Glenbard South, RBHS heads into the season as the hunted rather than the hunter in terms of the Metro Suburban Conference race.

“We’re the ones on top,” Curtin said. “We’ll see what Glenbard South has to bring. Our goal is to win conference again, win a sectional championship, and obviously get as many guys downstate as we can. Nothing is official so we better not put anything in the books, but we have high expectations.”

It’s important to note Curtin, along with his fellow RBHS seniors, offer such optimism not in an arrogant manner. Rather, the Bulldogs are simply a self-assured bunch galvanized by the confidence of producing a historic season in 2013.

In fact, Faje is about as soft-spoken a competitor you’ll find. A four-year cross-country and track athlete at RBHS, the Riverside resident is a two-time state qualifier in cross-country and appears poised to have an outstanding senior season particularly in the 3,200-meter run.

“I hope to qualify for state in the two-mile,” Faje said. “Right now, I’m just focused on building a strong foundation for the season and working hard.”

Off the track, Faje is also concentrated on his future with plans of attending the University of Illinois to study civil engineering. He’s also a boy scout (literally) in his spare time.

“Boy Scouts has taught me a lot like how to be a good leader, how to be responsible and have a good moral code,” said Faje, who recently reached Eagle Scout status. “There’s a bunch of ranks and you work your way up.”

Like Faje, Curtin’s ascent within the RBHS track program has been admirably steady.

“I had a stress fracture injury my sophomore year which kind of slowed me down,” Curtin said. “Honestly, I haven’t always been happy about my past performances. I have been training hard and I’m really optimistic that I’m going to have my best season.”

Curtin, the fifth child of his family to come through RBHS, hopes to attend the University of Minnesota next year and continue running whether on the college team or intramurals.

“Kevin and Dan are both all-conference, state-qualifying cross-country runners and the backbone of our distance team,” Olson said. “Our other key seniors, Lewis Rogers and Gerrand Moody, both qualified for state in the 1,600 relay last season and Lewis also qualified for state in the 300 hurdles. All these guys are good leaders and big reasons why our program has been successful.

“We thought winning conference would be a tough challenge last year,” Olson added, “but then we won the Bulldog Relays for the second year in a row to set the tone of the season. After that, we won conference and took second at sectionals. It was our new reality and we had a season full of good team accomplishments.”

While Faje and Curtin will lead the Bulldogs in distance events, Rogers and Moody offer plenty of speed to the lineup. Last season at the Lyons Township Sectional, Rogers and Moody joined Matt Chapp and Andrew Bell (graduated in 2013) to comprise the Bulldogs’ state-qualifying 1,600 relay team. Chapp, Bell and Rogers all ran personal record bests during that race before Moody solidified their second-place finish (3:28.04) in the race and state qualification with a strong anchor leg finish. LTHS won the race (3:24.17). The Bulldogs’ 800 relay of Chapp, Bell, Mike McCabe and Marvin McKenzie also qualified for state (1:31.36) by finishing second at the sectional. Otis Dortch and Zach Witken ran on the 800 relay team at state as replacements.

In the 300 hurdles of the sectional, Rogers clocked a time of 40.71 to finish second behind fellow state-qualifier Lino Mogorvic (39.01) of LTHS. Rogers, who also starred for the RBHS football team as a defensive back/wide receiver, hopes to make another trip downstate in multiple events. He hopes to compete in both football and track in college.

“I’m entering this season with the same mindset I always have, which is to work as hard as I can,” Rogers said. “Since I didn’t play basketball this year and focused on training for track, I’m really excited about what I can accomplish this season. Our goal is to win a sectional and we have the pieces to do it.”

Of all the Bulldogs’ stellar seniors, Moody has arguably made the most progress during his four years in the program.

“When I was a freshman, I wasn’t really fast and I had to work hard just to compete,” Moody said. “I also had some injuries. I decided to hit the weight room hard and work on some injury prevention.

“Everything clicked for me my junior year, which was very gratifying. I went downstate with the relay team, won conference in the 110 hurdles and scored a lot of points for my team. We have a lot of people doing great things in our program.”

Other expected contributors for RBHS include Chapp (relays, 200), VandeMerkt (high jump), McCabe (relays), McKenzie (800 relay, 200), Lou Grigoletti (discus/shot put), Jordan Petronella (discus/shot put) and promising sophomores Zach Witken and Jeremiah Clarkson.

“I really like the state of the program. All we ask of our athletes is good attendance and their best effort on a daily basis. If an athlete does those things, he’s a welcomed addition to our team.”

Bulldogs at a glance

Riverside-Brookfield Track & Field

Coach: Tim Olson (4th season)

Key losses: David Swon, Andrew Bell, Spencer Purcell

Key returners: Kevin Faje, Dan Curtin, Lewis Roger, Gerrand Moody, Jack VandeMerkt, Matt Chapp, Marvin McKenzie

Accomplishments: Won 46th Annual Gary Johnson Bulldog Relays, won Metro Suburban Conference, took second at Lyons Township Sectional in 2013.