Riverside-Brookfield's Maria Dalton (left) during the Mike Kuharic Invitational at Lyons Township, Sept. 2, in Western Springs. | Steve Johnston
Maria Dalton

Riverside-Brookfield High School senior Maria Dalton only knew she felt wonderful following her cross country race Saturday in Peoria.

“This is one of the best races I’ve had in a while,” Dalton said. “I’m happy with that because I felt really strong during my race. I haven’t felt like that in a while so I’m really happy.”
Dalton’s 20:28.1 for 3.0 miles at Peoria’s High School’s First to the Finish Invitational on the Detweiller Park state course was indeed a personal record and perhaps a sign of races to come. 

“Since it’s my senior year, I want to give it my all. I’ve realized these are my last races so it’s definitely a motivation factor,” Dalton said. “That would be amazing, incredible if I could get sub-20:00 by the end of the season.” 

Now in Class 3A this season, the Bulldogs were 31st of 39 teams (850 points). Junior and two-time 2A individual state qualifier Gianna Gelb was 107th (19:49.3), followed by Dalton (149th, 20:28.1), seniors Maia Nelson (238th, 21:44.6), Lily Kocourek (245th, 21:54.7), sophomore Rebecca Dosek (253rd, 22:04.7) and juniors Jorie Eggers (309th, 23:12.8) and Elli Barsotti (331st, 24:29.3).

Gianna Gelb

“Maria had a really good race. Gianna had a good race, too,” RBHS coach Blair Jensen said. “[Dalton is] feeling really strong this year.” 

Gelb, who finished strong last season, already is ahead of 2022, when she was 60th in 20:04.6 at the 2A First to the Finish race. Dalton (126th, 21:10) and Nelson (199th, 22:29.4) also improved from last year’s varsity results.

Dalton beat her previous all-time best of 20:35.2 from sophomore year when she finished 27th at the Metro Suburban Conference Meet on a similarly-flat Elmwood Park course. Dalton’s fastest last season was 20:49.4 at sectionals.

“I think I had a really good training plan over the summer. I focused a lot on endurance and strength training, too, so I think that helped,” Dalton said. “And also what I’m eating, and taking recovery days like actual recovery days, letting my muscles fully heal. I think just all of that combined really helped me get stronger for this season.”