Jack O’Brien | Photo by Laura Duffy

Junior Jack O’Brien continues reaping benefits from his all-state contributions to the Riverside-Brookfield High School boys cross country team’s IHSA Class 2A state championship last November.

Besides more running confidence, O’Brien has greater enjoyment this track and field season. 

“I definitely feel like track has always been the little brother to cross country to me. But I had a really good indoor season. I’ve just been more excited with track, just enjoying everything, personal success,” O’Brien said.

On April 22, O’Brien ran another personal best of 4 minutes, 27.25 seconds for the 1,600 meters at the seventh Distance Night in Palatine. 

Athletes with fast enough personal bests could enter the numerous boys and girls individual races for 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters at Palatine High School. Official finishing times for one and two miles also were calculated.

Even with cold temperatures and intermittent rain, races featured a who’s who of top Chicago-area runners led to many great performances. 

This was O’Brien’s first appearance. With O’Brien still shy of the 4:23.68 Class 3A state-qualifying standard, he may opt for the 800 individually at sectionals as well as the 3,200 and probably 1,600 relays.

“This [invite] I was definitely looking forward to just considering all of the best runners are here. You just want to compete with the best,” O’Brien said. “I feel like everyone thinks now we just can compete with the best and that the confidence factor going into races has changed.”

RBHS’ Brady Norman crosses the finish line for third place in the 3200 Meter on Saturday April 8 2023 at RBHS. | Ian McLeod

Sophomore Brady Norman, another member of the state championship lineup, had a five-second, personal-best with 9:45.98 in the boys 3,200. RBHS senior Bryce Pacourek, a 2022 3A state qualifier in the 800 meters, ran a personal-best 2:21.99 in Section 2 of the girls 800.

Norman is chasing the state-qualifying standard of 9:35.34. 

“I’ll take that [9:45]. It’s the big stepping stone I need,” Norman said. “I need to be as close to that state qualifying as I can just to have hope at the sectional. And I think nine seconds is a jump I can make.”

Lyons Township High School junior Nick Strayer continued his strong season with a personal-best 4:17.29 for second place in Section 3 of the boys 1,600. Strayer’s previous best was 4:20.05 indoors March 25, which won the Illinois Top Times Invitational in Bloomington after not even seeded among the top 10.

LT boys cross country Nick Strayer and Cillian Henning. | Photo by Laura Duffy

“That was a really fun day. That was a nice upset,” Strayer said.

Senior Michael Ferrell was fourth in Section 2 of the boys 800 with a personal-best 1:57.20. Senior Matt McGovern ran 2:01.54.

Junior Cillian Henning ran 9:32.62 in the boys 3,200, a slight personal best from his second-place 4:31.97 on April 8 at Minooka.

Ferrell beat his previous best from indoors by one second.

“I’d like to get it down a little bit more but progress is progress,” Ferrell said. “The competition was nice, especially on that last stretch, the last 300 meters or so, people push and they take you along with them. In races that doesn’t happen, you just always run slower.” 

Catherine Sommerfeld (Photo by Paul Nickoley)

For the LTHS girls, senior Catherine Sommerfeld was fifth in the top-seeded section of the girls 1,600 in a season-best 5:00.31 and junior Shannon Cranny ran 5:21.90.

Junior Julianne Melby (11:48.82 for Girls 3,200) and sophomore Leigh Ferrell (5:22.02 for 1,600) also posted season bests. 

Other entries were senior Charlotte Lange (5:11.92), junior Anna Bylsma (5:25.35) and seniors Scarlett Lestina (5:38.16) and Maia Rudofski (5:49.24) in the 1,600 and junior twins Madison Findley (2:23.27) and Kristina Findley (2:24.08) in the 800.

Nazareth Academy senior Colette Kinsella set another school record in her outdoor debut with 5:18.83 for 15th in the final section of the girls 1,600.

Colette Kinsella | Provided

The Roadrunners’ only all-state girls cross country finisher has been playing for the soccer team these past springs.

“It’s definitely been an adjustment, but it’s a lot of fun,” Kinsella said. “I just wanted to see where my potential could take me because I’ve been loving cross country always and my coaches have always encouraged me to try track.” 

Kinsella will run at Vanderbilt along with Sommerfeld, her nearby neighbor in Western Springs.

“We don’t really [go on runs] but we will this summer,” Kinsella said.