After achieving to the first state championship in school history in 2022, the Riverside Brookfield High School boys cross country runners return to the state meet Nov. 4 at Peoria’s Detweiller Park with a different outlook.
Now in Class 3A, the defending 2A champions – and several seniors — still have plenty to prove.
“I think we can finish in the top 10 as a team, if not higher,” RBHS senior Cooper Marrs said. “I would say it’s definitely a different atmosphere but we’re still equally ready to run and seeing how fast we can run.”
The Bulldogs qualified for state by taking sixth at the Hinsdale Central Sectional (157 points) Saturday at Katherine Legge Memorial Park.
Marrs was fourth (15:24.94) in a talented field to earn top-10 all-sectional honors. Junior Brady Norman (16:12.68) and senior Jack O’Brien (31st, 16:12.82) were 30th and 31st, followed by senior Will Kallas (16:27.27), juniors Asa Kahle (16:33.79) and Diego Lopez-Molina (16:36.17) and senior Brennan Lester (17:02.42).
This season, the Bulldogs have been consistently ranked among the top 20 in 3A, most recently No. 15 by ILXCTF and No. 16 by ILMilesplit. Needing a top-seven sectional finish to advance, the Bulldogs went against six other top-20 ranked teams Saturday.
“I don’t think anyone on the team thinks we can win a (top-three) trophy. There’s just a lot of great teams in the state,” O’Brien said. “We’re still trying to do the best we can. A lot of the pressure on us last year is off. It’s just focus on running our best race and putting up a fight as seniors.”
Besides the 2022 2A state team title, Marrs (5th) and O’Brien (16th) were top-25 all-staters and Kallas (38th), Norman (69th) and Lester (80th) were the No. 3, 5 and 6 team finishers. Marrs also was an all-state 22nd as a sophomore.
Marrs more than held his own in Saturday’s field that had the four highest non-senior finishers at 2022 state and seven of the top eight. He was just .33 behind third-place Downers Grove North senior Ryan Eddington, 14th at 3A state last year.
“I am proud of it. A good race strategy. I ended up competing with a lot of fast runners,” Marrs said. “I would like to see a top-10 finish. That would be awesome.”
O’Brien hopes for a better race at state. Saturday’s race began odd with a rare false start and another team moving into the Bulldogs’ starting box when they returned.
“It was very funny looking back but it was kind of stressful in the moment,” O’Brien said.
“Definitely not the best race I’ve had. I’m just trying to work off that and hopefully feel better about how I do at state and not trying to focus on this being the last one.”
The RBHS girls were 15th (371). Junior Gianna Gelb (20:21.97) and sophomore Addie Vaia (20:22.43) were 62nd and 63rd, followed by seniors Maria Dalton (88th, 21:22.2) and Lily Kocourek (90th, 21:22.89), sophomore Rebecca Dosek (94th, 21:25.81), senior Maia Nelson (22:42.56) and sophomore Mia Alcaraz (125th, 22:55.03).
The top 10 individuals not among the seven advancing teams also qualify for state. The last individual qualifier was Oswego’s Addison Richter (43rd, 19:46.48).
“I think I ran the best I could. It was really hard competition and the course was so muddy,” Gelb said.
Gelb had qualified for 2A state the past two seasons, taking 35th in 2022 and 151st in 2021 competing alongside 2023 graduate Bryce Pacourek. Several of her regular-season races this season in comparable conditions were faster than 2022.
“I think there has been improvement. Switching from 2A to 3A, you’re competing against bigger schools, better girls,” Gelb said. “It’s crazy, but I think it’s fun, running with harder competition. I think it makes you a better runner.”