Boys Track Coach of the Year: River Forest’s Brian Wesley
By Mike Clark Post-Tribune correspondent June 29, 2012 11:30PM
River Forest head coach Brian Wesley is the Post-Tribune Boys Track Coach of the Year. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 1, 2012 6:18AM
The glass looked more half-empty than half-full for River Forest’s boys track team early in the spring.
Even though the Ingots were the two-time defending champs in the Greater South Shore Conference, third-year coach Brian Wesley had the smallest turnout of his tenure: just 17 athletes. Plus, a couple of league rivals — Wheeler and North Newton — knocked off the Ingots in the early going.
“At the beginning of the season we were kind of still working out where guys needed to be for each event,” Wesley said. “With lower numbers, we needed to figure out the puzzle pieces.”
Somehow, Wesley came up with the right answers. River Forest won titles at the Lowell and Washington Township relay meets before holding off Wheeler 141-125.5 to win its third consecutive Greater South Shore title. Also, senior long jumper Jaime Cervantes became the first Ingot to qualify for state in 11 years.
It was another big finish for Wesley, who has coached all of the four River Forest teams that have won GSSC titles (three in track, one in wrestling). For his efforts in keeping the Ingots not only competitive but on top of the conference, Wesley is the Post-Tribune’s Boys Track and Field Coach of the Year.
Wesley is no stranger to success. He played three sports at Lake Central (football, wrestling, track), setting the school record in the discus and earning a football scholarship to St. Joseph’s. He came to River Forest fresh out of college five years ago to coach those same sports and teach health and physical education.
Though the Ingots hadn’t won a Greater South Shore title in any sport before he took over the track program, Wesley preferred to focus on what his athletes could do in the future instead of on what they had not done in the past.
“First of all, you go in and change the attitude and the mindset,” he said. “I’m more focused on training them to be athletes. If you can be athletes, you can be successful in any sport you do.”
To that end, Wesley talked up the benefits of hitting the weights and playing multiple sports. Both were key for a school with an enrollment of 430 to be competitive, he believes.
“It doesn’t matter the size of the school — if you can get the kids in the weight room, they can be successful,” he said.
And so the Ingots were, come conference time. There were plenty of heroes, including Brandon Armour, who swept the throws, setting a meet record in the discus, and James Lewis, a triple winner in the short sprints and high jump.
Just as important were some relay teams that performed better than their seeds, earning key points.
“Guys got hyped up for that meet,” Wesley said. “They had a little more fire underneath them.”
The momentum carried over the next week to the rugged Crown Point Sectional, where the Ingots went up against the big boys: Lake Central, CP and Merrillville of the Duneland and Hobart, Lowell and Andrean of the Northwest Crossroads, among others. Cervantes made it out of the sectional and also out of the Valparaiso Regional.
“That was huge,” Wesley said. “Just to have kids see it’s possible for kids from River Forest to make it to state.
“I think it opened a lot of eyes.”
Ditto for what the Ingots have accomplished as a program, this year and all through Wesley’s tenure.