Senior Zack Gaynor earned two honors on May 26 for his contributions to a strong Riverside-Brookfield High School boys track and field season.

He competed for the first time at the IHSA Class 3A state meet in Charleston, joining juniors Jack O’Brien and Hayden Marrs and sophomore Will Kallas on the 3,200-meter and 1,600 relay teams in the state preliminaries.

Gaynor then received his high school diploma among curious spectators at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium. 

Gaynor missed the formal ceremony that night at the school.

Zach Gayor getting diploma | Provided

Dressed in cap and gown, Gaynor was presented his diploma by Deanna Zalas, the RBHS school board president and Marrs’ mother. 

“That was the plan. I was hoping to miss graduation,” Gaynor said. “I didn’t want to be in the gym for three hours. I’d rather be out here.”

The 3,200 relay finished 24th (8:04.20) and the 1,600 relay was 25th (3:26.31). Sophomore Brady Norman was 43rd in the 3,200 (10:04.01), which was run in three heats on May 27.

All five state qualifiers helped the Bulldogs win the school’s first state championship last November by capturing the Class 2A championship in boys cross country.

For Gaynor, who joined track as a junior, and the sophomores, it was their first state track berths.

“It’s been a great year,” said Gaynor, who will run at Division III Trine University in Angola, Indiana.

“It was all new. Cross country was more business. I feel like this was more fun,” Gaynor said.

O’Brien and Marrs competed at state in 2021. O’Brien was with the 3,200 relay and both were part of the 1,600 relay but with much slower times than on May 26.

“Not making finals, it sucks, but I don’t think it diminishes how we feel about the season and everyone’s performances,” O’Brien said. “I think we all had a pretty good year. I think it’s going to propel us into next year cross country.” 

O’Brien continued the individual strides he made as a Class 2A all-stater (16th) in cross country. Marrs felt he made significant progress from last fall.

“I think I had a better mindset going into track season,” said Marrs, who played water polo part time. “I was just looking forward to being outside and trying new things and seeing where the season takes me with zero expectations. That really helped me reshape the athlete I was in the fall season.” 

Norman also is enthusiastic for cross country after a lifetime-best at sectionals of 9:35.26, a far contrast to Saturday’s race.

“I felt awful from the gun. I’m going to figure out what I did wrong in training or preparation,” Norman said. “I’m going to take my two weeks into summer training and get the mileage in and see what I can do in cross country.”