RB boys cross country team clinches first state title in school history


Ana Nava

RB’s boys cross country team pose with their trophy after pep rally.

Morgan Anderson, Managing Editor

This past weekend, the boy’s cross-country team won the Illinois state title for Riverside Brookfield High School. This team title was the first won in RB’s history.

The boy’s season began before the start of the school year and had their first meet on August 24 in Elmwood Park. From there the team had less than three months to prepare as a team before the start of the postseason on October 15. Since the post-season workouts are typically lighter, the heavy exercise was done during the regular season.

“Leading up to the state meet we used our invitationals to try out different things. Running more in a group than every man for themselves. We also targeted different times to hit (mile and two mile times). In terms of training, all the heavy lifting was done in August and September and over the summer,” head coach John Brady said.

This work, while difficult at times, elicited great results for the team throughout their post-season.

“We started out really strong, beginning of the year. And we put in all the work and went to practice every day. And all that work just paid off up to state, and I feel like one of the main reasons we won state, honestly, is the determination we had,” junior Evan McMullen said.

As always, difficulties come with the victories in races. However, the team’s unity grew over the course of the season which helped their performances as a whole.

“It was a lot of ups and downs. I think our team started really coming together all of us toward the end of the season. We had a few good wins early in the season but as postseason started coming around all of us starting running together and running some fast times,” junior Cooper Marrs said.

Although one of the main focuses in cross country is individual times, the team aspect helps everyone perform better. The comradery that the group has provides support and motivation.

“It was a domino effect. Everybody pushes everybody… That’s why it’s a whole team sport,” junior Jack O’Brien said.

After winning both their conference and sectional meet, the team advanced to the 2A state championship which was held at Dettweiler Park in Peoria, Illinois. Initially, the team planned for moderate weather as it had been for the majority of the season. However, the arrival of rain on the day of the race resulted in the change of each runner’s goals.

“Before we knew it was going to rain, we were mostly going for times but turned out it rained the day we woke up so after that we just decided to go for placement and we knew the team that was seeded first most of the year so we just tried to stay ahead of them,” junior William Kallas said.

Although the rain changed the initial racing goals, it didn’t deter the team from their goal. The change in the previous plan was readily accepted and didn’t change the mental outlook they had on the race.

“I was going in thinking ‘everyone else has to deal with the same terrain that we’re going to be running on so it doesn’t help wasting brain power on something that I can’t control. I’m just gonna go out there and do my best,’” O’Brien said.

At the state race, Marrs finished in 5th place with a time of 15:27 and O’Brien finished in 16th place with a time of 16:00. Kallas ran a 16:24 to get 38th place, senior Zack Gaynor ran a 16:39 for 56th place, and sophomore Brady Norman ran a 16:46, grabbing 69th place. Juniors Brennan Lester and Hayden Marrs rounded off the team with 80th place in 16:53 and 160th place in 17:35, respectively.

Along with training, the team had a large support system encouraging them and pushing them to do their best. Students, administrators, and staff all cheered the team on as they worked to achieve their goals. One such supporter is the RB assistant athletic director, Sandy Czajka.

“It’s one of those moments where you realize that all the little things you’ve done behind the scenes that most people never see are crucial and although I don’t take any credit for what they have done, I feel good that I was able to support it in any way that I could,” Czajka said.

In order to commemorate the athletes, multiple events were scheduled for the week after their return. Initially, the team received a police and fire department escort when returning to the school with a team breakfast and dinner also planned as celebratory meals. An all-school assembly was held Wednesday, November 9 which featured the RB band and speeches from the runners. The state trophy was displayed in the RB atrium and later in the cafeteria to promote school pride.

“I hope every other individual athlete or team sport says that if one team can do it we can do it too and beyond athletics, I hope they see this victory and feel better about this school… I’m hoping that this is kind of a ripple effect in our school culture,” RB principal Dr. Hector Freytas said.

For the upcoming cross country season, RB may be moved into the 3A class, with some bigger schools, or stay in their current 2A class. However, with the majority of the team returning, with the exception of senior Zack Gaynor, many believe that there is a chance of a second state title in the future.

“If anything is done once it could occur again. So we do have six out of the seven top runners coming back. I know that a lot of the boys feel that they could make a strong push for another run at the state title or at least placing,” Freytas said.

The team’s accomplishment has been recognized by the whole community and many have expressed their happiness at the result.

“[I] couldn’t be prouder of a group of athletes. When you combine a great work ethic with a whole lot of caring and a common goal, good things are going to happen,” Brady said.