With a tougher training regime and a lift from several key returning runners, the Bulldogs have their eyes on elevating the program's stature.
"I think the kids have experienced a lot more challenging workouts," said Laura Drzonek, who is starting her second full season as girls' varsity head coach. "We've really increased the lengths of our runs and added speed at the same time. I think the girls have enjoyed the diversity of our workouts, and are really responding to the challenge."
The key for RB has simply been running longer in practices. While a three-mile run might have once seemed like a grueling trek, it now seems like a casual stroll for the Bulldog runners that have pushed their distances in practice to upwards of seven to 10 miles.
"It really helps when we can run that long because then we can start focusing on speed and efficiency," Drzonek said.
Leading the pack of RB returnees are seniors Therese Hanson and Kristin Zeleny. They'll share co-captain duties for this year's team.
Also back are juniors Gabby Moron, Margaret McCoy and Andy Wodzinski, along with sophomores Sheela Turbek and Erin Sventy. Freshman Anna Tess has also been impressive after becoming a late addition to the varsity roster.
The Bulldogs are benefiting from competition within the team, as JV runners Jen Branscum and Raquel Sylvie have been making a hard push for varsity spots. Numbers are up, as three years ago only 17 runners came out for the team. This year 41 athletes have decided to compete. Drzonek also thinks the experience new assistant coach Whitney Carlson brings will be a boost for the team.
Last season, RB finished second in the Suburban Prairie (East) Conference, behind only Lemont. This year the Bulldogs are in the Metro Suburban, where they hope to capture the league's first title. RB enters the year as the favorite to do just that as every SPC East team except Lemont will be part of the new league.
Dropped times also have the Bulldogs hopeful of another sectional appearance.
"Those are our goals for right now," Dzronek said, "but every year we want to inch ourselves closer to being one of the top teams in the state."
RB boys take third at own invite
The Bulldog boys' cross country team finished third at Saturday's RB invite. Alex Munoz led the way with his fifth-place finish, followed by Kevin Kunkel (11th). Tom Dacy also turned in one of the best races of his career.
Miguel Alvarez finished second overall for RB in the junior varsity race.