Bulldogs Impress in Peoria


Boy’s Cross Country after the race. Photo courtesy of Lori Noel

Tim Buckley, Staff Reporter

On Saturday, November 4, the Riverside Brookfield Boys and Girls Cross Country teams competed at the IHSA 2A State Cross Country Championship at Detweiller Park, Peoria, IL. The boys team finished in 8th place, while the girls finished 17th.

“I’m so happy with how the boys ran, it was an outstanding race,” said Boys Head Coach Larry Forberg. “I know for a fact that five of our seven boys broke their personal records, and I’m so proud of the guys.”

The boys faced their toughest competition to date in Peoria. They had to run against the powerhouses of Mahomet-Seymour, Normal University, Sycamore, Springfield, and Kaneland. This year’s finish was the highest finish in RB Boys Cross Country history since a 4th place finish in the 1972-1973 school year.

“We’ve raced every team competing besides Mahomet-Seymour.” said Forberg, “we beat Sycamore at Sterling, we beat Kaneland at First to the Finish, so we know that we deserve to be there.”

Their top runner was senior Jacob Wardzala, who finished with a time of 15:16, placing 22nd in the race. The next bulldog runner to cross the finish line was senior Connor O’Brien, who finished with a 15:49 time and placed 56th, followed by senior Jack Sagan who finished with a 15:49 time and placed 58th.

“Jacob, Connor, and Jack have set the standard for this program,” said Forberg. “I know that the next group have taken notes from them, they know what to expect, and they know how to succeed.”

The other runners who competed at the meet were senior Jason Noel (73rd), senior Ryan Hahn (142nd), junior Chris Magno (154th), and junior David Keen (181st).

“As a team, this is by far the best I’ve ever coached,” said Forberg. “I know that we’ve had higher finishes, and faster runners, but as a whole this is the best group by far.”

The girls finished 17th, their second highest result ever at the state meet. Led by first year head coach Blair Jensen, the girls ran hard, even with the elements against them.

“It’s funny,” said Jensen. “I know that everyone believes that the weather will play a huge role in the race, but some of our girls hit their PR’s [Personal Record], or their seasonal records, and I think it’s crazy.”

Junior Tara Janney led the Bulldogs with her time of 18:35 and a 51st place finish, junior Nadia Kaczmarz (77th), senior Hailey Jurgens (81st), juniors Melissa Oliveria-Liz (155th), Cora Lutes (165th), Niela Callanan (173rd), and freshman Tess Bruno (182nd) were also the competitors at the State competition.

“I’m extremely proud of our team,” said Jensen. “Not just because of how they ran this race, but how they ran the entire season, it was a really great season.”

While the girls did not finish as high as the boys did, their roster is young, with six of their top seven runners returning to the team next season.

“It’s going to be good,” said Jensen. “We have a ton of returning runners, we even took two sophomores and a freshman to State who will compete with some of the current juniors for spots next season, it’s great for the future of our program.”

While it’s a bittersweet end for seniors of both teams, it’s a shining light on the future of both programs, an 8th and a 17th finish are amazing achievements, and that can be attributed to the leadership on both teams.

“I know that at least on my team, that the leaders on the team set the standard,” said Forberg. “I wish them all the best, and I know that the entire program appreciates what they had done.”


CORRECTION: This article was updated on November 16 to make a correction. The article initially indicated that this year’s 8th place finish was the highest-ever finish for a boys’ cross country team. The team finished in 4th place at the state tournament during the 1972-73 season.