The Riverside-Brookfield High School boys cross country team achieved big time in 2022 by winning the IHSA Class 2A state championship for the school’s first title in any sport.
With six of those seven runners back, including senior all-staters Cooper Marrs and Jack O’Brien, the Bulldogs face another huge challenge this season – the move into Class 3A based on enrollment classifications.
“Summer running has been more than we had in the past. We’re definitely at a better spot than we were at this time last year. It should be fun to see where we’re at when we start facing some of these 3A schools,” Marrs said.
For the Class 3A preseason, the Bulldogs were ranked No. 14 by MileSplit Illinois and No. 15 by ILXCTF.com. They’ll learn their status quickly with Lyons Township’s Mike Kuharic Invitational on Sept. 2 followed by the First to the Finish Invite on Sept. 9 at Peoria’s Detweiller Park, annual site of the state meet.
“In summer, I think we put ourselves in a really good position to succeed and especially with these 3A schools, it brings on tougher competition a and a new challenge for us,” O’Brien said.
The Bulldogs (131 points) won their state championship by 24 points. Marrs (5th, 15:27.46 for 3.0 miles) and O’Brien (16th, 16:00.40) were top-25 all-staters. Senior Will Kallas (38th, 16:24.49) was the team’s third state finisher and junior Brady Norman (69th, 16:46.96) and seniors Brennan Lester (80th, 16:53.45) and Hayden Marrs (160th, 17:35.46) were their No. 5, 6 and 7 finishers.
Others contending for the top seven are seniors Evan McMullen and Misael Herrera, juniors Diego Lopez-Molina and Asa Kahle and sophomore Tommy Bogdon.
RBHS coach Jack Brady thinks the Bulldogs can at least compete for the top 10 in state.
“Workouts have been very encouraging during the early season,” Brady said. “In order to compete at the highest level, the 1-5 and 1-7 time gap must improve from previous seasons.”
Compared with last year’s 3A state times, Marrs would have been battling for 25th and O’Brien would have finished in the mid-70s. But like last year, the Bulldogs’ training capacity grows exponentially.
At 2021 state, Marrs also was an all-state 22nd and the Bulldogs finished fifth. O’Brien (30th), Hayden Marrs (139th), Kallas (142nd) and Lester (195th) also made significant improvements from those state finishes.
This past spring, three-sport standout Cooper Marrs had a great baseball season. In track, Norman’s huge strides earned an individual 2A state berth in the 3,200-meter run. O’Brien, Kallas and Hayden Marrs qualified in the 3,200 relay.
“Brady [Norman] is coming off a great track season, where he ran 9:35 [at sectionals],” Brady said. “Will is the healthiest he’s been in two years. Brennan adds great depth.”