Paul Proteau | PAUL NICKOLEY/Contributor

Hoping for a great postseason, Riverside-Brookfield High School senior Paul Proteau discovered his final piece of gear at Dick’s Sporting Goods two days before the Class 2A boys cross country regional.

“I always wanted to wear a bandanna during a race, so I did it for regionals and just kept the tradition going,” Proteau said.

“It was blue and white [school colors]. I just saw it on the rack. I’m like, ‘I’ve always wanted to do it.’ I just went for it.”

Proteau enjoyed his greatest race on Nov. 6 to finish third at the IHSA Class 2A state meet at Peoria’s Detweiller Park.

Proteau’s personal-best 14 minutes, 44.54 second for 3.0 miles is the Bulldogs’ second-highest finish to Jim Press’s 1966 state title. 

“I couldn’t ask for a better way to close out my senior season,” Proteau said.

RBHS added multiple top-25 all-staters for the first time since 1973. Sophomore Cooper Marrs persevered for 22nd (15:18.01) after mostly running with Proteau throughout the race.

Jack O’Brien | PAUL NICKOLEY/Contributor

The Bulldogs finished fifth (235 points) as a team. Sophomore Jack O’Brien was 30th (15:35.90), followed by sophomores Hayden Marrs (139th, 16:26.29) and Will Kallas (142nd, 16:26.83), junior Zack Gaynor (158th, 16:41.39) and sophomore Brennan Lester (195th, 17:00.70).

Proteau said working off Cooper Marrs absolutely was his key. They were sixth and seventh after one mile and 5-6 at two miles, just tenths of a second from third place.

“I slipped my way into third place with about 1,200 meters left. I didn’t think that was going to happen,” Proteau said. 

Cooper Marrs, however, began staggering and collapsed meters from the finish. He crossed seven seconds ahead of 26th place.

“It felt like somebody tied a truck to my body the last 200. It was really difficult, but I’m just glad I finished the race and got all-state,” Marrs said. “That was a great way [for Proteau] to finish off his senior season.”

In the Class 2A girls race, Riverside-Brookfield High School junior Bryce Pacourek (72nd, 18:58.33) and freshman Gianna Gelb (151st, 19:45.42) were individual qualifiers. 

Pacourek sat out conference and regionals yet ran a season-best nine seconds from her lifetime best.

(Far left) Cooper Marrs and Paul Proteau | PAUL NICKOLEY/Contributor

“I’ve been sick for a while, so this race really boosted my confidence,” Pacourek said. “It’s been a pretty hard season. And here I am now, not 100 percent, but close to it.” 

“I guess I kind of learned my ability,” said Gelb. “It’s been pretty exciting.” 

In Class 3A, Lyons Township High School junior Catherine Sommerfeld made a late surge for an all-state 12th place (16:58.37) that just missed Sarah Barcelona’s school-record 16:57.86 for 18th in 2015. 

“[All-state] was a goal since the summer,” Sommerfeld said. “I had some moments where I thought I was going to be falling back, but at the end I saw that little group in front of me. I just decided to push that last couple of seconds.” 

The LTHS boys were 12th as a team overall (298 points) behind senior Finn Gallagher (35th, 15:04.67), sophomore Nick Strayer (46th, 15:09.47), senior Hayden Constas (72nd, 15:20.02), junior Aidan Collins (104th, 15:34.59), senior Charlie McLawhorn (106th, 15:36.43), sophomore Cillian Henning (133rd, 15:44.46), and junior Matt McGovern (182nd, 16:08.14). McLawhorn, LTHS’ season-long No. 1 runner, injured his right ankle during sectionals.

Riversider helps Fenwick to state title

Fenwick High School won its first top-three trophy in cross country in fine fashion on Nov. 6, winning the IHSA Class 2A state meet behind all-state performances from junior Grayden Rill (8th, 15:06.34) and sophomore Nate McKillop (20th, 15:17.35).

Also running for the Friars was Riverside resident Carl Lukas, a senior who was making his second state meet appearance. Though he was not among the Fenwick runners to score, he ran a 16:21.04, good for 123rd place overall.