Zack Gaynor

At his previous two Metro Suburban Conference Blue meets, Riverside-Brookfield High School senior boys cross country runner Zack Gaynor finished 13th.

The top 12 receive individual all-conference honors.

“Brutal,” said Gaynor. “Just bad luck.”  

On Oct. 15 Gaynor’s luck changed, finishing seventh at Elmwood Park. His MSC Blue finish was among numerous triumphs for the Bulldogs, who won the meet for the second straight year with 21 points.

Junior Cooper Marrs won his second conference title in a course-record 14 minutes, 48.0 seconds for 3.0 miles, also a personal best by seven seconds. 

Junior Jack O’Brien was second (15:34.1), juniors Will Kallas (15:59.4) and Brennan Lester (15:59.6) were fifth and sixth and junior Hayden Marrs (16:23.7) was 11th to also earn all-conference. 

Cooper Marrs

Asa Kahle, the highest finishing sophomore, was 14th (16:31.6), 7.4 seconds from 12th. Junior Brady Norman, often the No. 3 finisher, was out with sickness.

“It’s nice [being all-conference]. I’m looking forward to the last three [postseason] meets,” Gaynor said. “I just wanted to win as a team. I just wanted to put all seven all-conference. It’s pretty cool.”

The Bulldogs are ranked No. 4 in IHSA Class 2A by ILXCTF.com and No. 8 by IlMilesplit.com. They begin the Class 2A postseason at the Hinsdale South Regional on Oct. 22.

“It was pretty much a whole team effort,” RBHS coach Jack Brady said. “Cooper wanted to break the course record and he did. Jack ran his race, which was run for second. Those 3-4-5 guys were three seconds apart from each other. Zack’s been 13th. I told him, ‘Your only job is not to finish 13th.’”

Marrs’ 14:48.0 ranks second in Class 2A to Marian junior Dylon Nally, who ran this season’s fastest Illinois time (14:03.5) on Oct. 1 at Peoria’s Detweiller Park, annual site of the state meet.

“The goal was obviously to win conference first and foremost, but going sub-15:00 and sub-14:50 too, that was big for the confidence heading into the postseason,” Marrs said. 

Marrs won conference as a freshman. On the same Elmwood Park course in 2021, Marrs was second (15:15.2), 10.1 seconds behind the RBHS senior Paul Proteau with O’Brien third.

Hayden Marrs and Kallas, in his third race back from injury, were an all-conference 11th and 12th in 2021. Lester improved from 21st with a personal best and 50-second improvement from his last 3.0-mile race Sept. 17.

“It means a lot. This was my race to see where I at 3.0 miles time wise,” Lester said. 

In the girls race, RBHS senior Bryce Pacourek (3rd, 18:46.0) and sophomore Gianna Gelb (4th, 18:53.8) were all-conference with personal records and their first top-five MSC finishes. Both were 2021 individual 2A state qualifiers. 

The Bulldogs were third (59 points) as a team. Junior Lily Kocourek (16th, 20:43.6), senior Jojo Rodriguez (17th, 20:48.7) and junior Maria Dalton (19th, 20:53.3) were top 20. Senior Mia Wagner (21:35.5) and junior Maiana Nelson (21:38.6) were 25th and 27th.

This was the third all-conference finish for Pacourek, who finished seventh as a freshman and sixth in 2020. She wasn’t feeling great on Oct. 15 but better than 2021, when sickness kept her from even finishing.

“It was nice to kind of get revenge from last year for not finishing,” Pacourek said.

Gelb improved significantly from 31st in 2021 behind a strong final mile that took her five seconds from fourth to 10 seconds ahead of fifth.