After taking several measures this past offseason, Riverside-Brookfield High School all-conference senior Ava Connerty is needing fewer steps between the hurdles this girls track and field season.
Besides extensive training on her own, often using portable hurdles for drills in her basement or outside, Connerty joined the RBHS girls gymnastics team for the first time.
“I did gymnastics just to make sure I was prepared. It definitely made me a lot stronger. My core is a lot stronger. I feel like coming into this track season, I wasn’t as tired compared to other seasons,” Connerty said.
Connerty is among eight key returnees who have earned All-Metro Suburban Conference Blue Division honors with top-three individuals or top-two relay finishes over the past two seasons.
The depth has the Bulldogs hoping for their first conference title since 2009 and more Class 3A state qualifiers to join senior Bryce Pacourek, their lone 2022 state representative in the 800-meter run.
Pacourek continues to progress after taking 19th at state in the 800 (2:27.02) following a then personal-best, second-place 2:26.82 at the Proviso East Sectional to advance.
On March 10, Pacourek dropped her lifetime-best 800 to 2:23.46. In November, she competed at her fourth IHSA or comparable state meet for cross country. She will continue running at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The Bulldogs have finished third at the MSC Blue Meet the past two seasons behind champion Rosary.
“We are as deep a team as we have ever been,” RBHS head coach Ian Robins responded. “We have strength in the distance events, hurdles, jumps and throws, and can compete in all areas.”
At last year’s MSC Blue Meet, senior Aja McKay (high jump), Connerty (100 high hurdles) and the 3,200 relay with junior Maria Dalton, Pacourek and sophomore Gianna Gelb were second. Taking third were junior Sophia Singh (100 hurdles), Gelb (1,600) and Connerty (300 low hurdles). Gelb has joined Pacourek as an individual state cross country qualifier the past two seasons.
Earning all-conference in 2021 were 800 champion Pacourek, second-place Dalton (3,200) and third-place senior Quinn Kahle (high jump), junior Antonia O’Keefe (discus) and Connerty (100 hurdles).
Experience also comes from senior Jojo Rodriguez and juniors Jenny Thomas, Alex Dominguez and Morgan Anderson. Rodriguez will compete at Elmhurst University.
Two key newcomers are sophomore sprinter Jorie Eggers and sophomore jumper Sofia Owens, already a two-year starter for the girls volleyball team.
Connerty will compete at Minot State in North Dakota. At last year’s sectional, Connerty was sixth in the 100 hurdles and eighth in the 300 hurdles. Top-two sectional finishers automatically qualify for state.
“I would love to make it to state. I feel like if I put the hard work in, I can do it,” Connerty said. “I’d really like to win conference. I’ve gotten pretty close the past couple of years.”