After spending the spring trying to find places to practice, the Riverside-Brookfield High School boys track team is sprinting to the finish.
That is literally true for seniors Marvin McKenzie, Matt Chapp, Mike McCabe and Otis Dortch, who have led the way for the Bulldogs in the individual sprints and the sprint relays.
That foursome recently set a new school record in the 400 relay of 43.65 seconds. They also are within striking distance of taking down the school records in the 800 and 1,600 relays.
“These guys will head that group [of potential state qualifiers],” RBHS coach Tim Olson said. “They’re great kids and they are working hard. We usually don’t have four quality sprinters at the same. [The record] is a great accomplishment.”
The Bulldogs do not have any returning individual state qualifiers from last year but McKenzie, Chapp, McCabe and Dortch all have previous state meet experience.
McKenzie qualified as a freshman in the 400 dash and 1,600 relay in 2012, when RBHS was still in Class 2A, and ran with Chapp and McCabe on the 1,600 relay last year at the 3A state meet. Chapp, McCabe and Dortch were on the state-qualifying 1,600 relay in 2013.
The Bulldogs have one regular season invitational remaining. The team will travel to Lisle this weekend for the Carlin Nalley Invitational.
“That is really a good test to see where we are for sectionals,” Olson said. “We try to put the same lineup together for that meet as we do for sectionals.”
RBHS will compete in the Lyons Township Sectional on May 22. Before that, the Bulldogs will attempt to win their third consecutive conference championship when they head to Fenton for the Metro Suburban Conference West Division meet.
That meet will present a new challenge because the conference realignment means only three of the opponents are the same. The Bulldogs haven’t seen the other teams because of weather cancellations during the dual meet season.
“We really don’t know what to expect,” Olson said. “We could do our best but not win just because there are a lot of good teams there and you don’t know how other teams are going to set their lineups.”
The Bulldogs have faced a unique, for them at least, challenge this year because the school’s football stadium is being reconstructed, meaning all of their meets have been on the road and their practices have been all over the place.
The team has worked out behind the school running laps between the softball and baseball fields and also used the tracks at Morton and Lyons.
“It’s been an odd year because we lost our facility,” Olson said. “We had limited access to our track, so it’s been hard to get quality practice time, but the kids have been handling it well.”
Olson, who notes that many schools in Chicago do not have their own track, refuses to let the Bulldogs dwell on the situation.
“It’s an obstacle but we’re not going to use it as an excuse if we don’t perform as well as we want,” Olson said.
In the field events, senior Nicholas Quarino (long jump), junior Dean Zigulich (pole vault) and sophomore Elijah Ourth (pole vault) have had positive results, while two sophomores have shown promise on the track.
Mateo Nunez has seen action in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 runs while Jhalen Williams is primed to make an impact in the sprints.
“[Nunez] is just getting better and better,” Olson said. “We don’t really have a niche for him yet.”
Nunez established a new sophomore school record in the 1,600, with his clocking of 4:37.90 breaking a mark that had stood for 26 years.
“Anyone that works that hard and has that talent can do well,” Olson said. “I think he’ll do well [in the postseason] but he’s probably a year away.”