Bryce Pacourek

Senior Bryce Pacourek already joined an elite group of Riverside-Brookfield High School girls cross country runners simply by reaching her fourth state meet.

“It’s been a really big accomplishment for me and I’m really proud about that,” said Pacourek after the IHSA Class 2A finals at Detweiller Park in Peoria on Nov. 5.

Pacourek’s final finish was her highest yet with help from sophomore Gianna Gelb in her second individual trip.

Gelb (35th, 19 minutes, 15.29 seconds for 3.0 miles) and Pacourek (40th, 19:17.48) achieved what RBHS coach Blair Jensen said are the second and fourth-highest RBHS girls state finishes since the girls state distance increased from 2.0 to 3.0 miles in 2002.

Sloppy, rain-soaked conditions made personal-best times unattainable, but Pacourek’s previous highest state finish was 67th as a freshman. Gelb improved from 151st her freshman year.

Gianna Gelb

“It was really challenging because every step you’re running in mud,” Pacourek said. “Sprinting just wasn’t even a possibility, because my feet weren’t landing under me.”

“It was a full-body workout. You just couldn’t use your legs,” Gelb said. “You had to go on the outsides to make sure you didn’t fall.”

Jensen said there have been only a handful of RBHS four-time state qualifiers. Standout Katrina Price was a four-time all-stater from 1984-87.

Pacourek (18:36.38) and Gelb (18:39.99) both ran lifetime bests at sectionals Oct. 29.

“I feel like this year I’ve been much more consistent,” Pacourek said. “Freshman year, each race was a [personal record], but this season I’ve really had to work for each PR because I’m at a fitness level that’s harder.”

Gelb could be the next in line, especially seeing her growth the latter half of this season.

“Bryce started off a little faster. I was just going to run my own race and build up,” Gelb said. “Really hard what we had to do, especially with the mud. I’m really happy with that. It’s like me finishing out the season basically trying to do my best by the end of it.”