As an eighth-grader, cross country standout Tucker Louis noticed someone riding a bicycle alongside him while he was competing in the annual Rochelle Middle School Color Run.
That person was former Rochelle Township High School head cross country coach John Dobbs, who told Louis after he won the Color Run that he needed to sign up for the high school program. Four years later, Louis has become one of the RTHS cross country team’s fastest runners, and the senior Hub wants to finish his final season with a few more accolades.
“I feel like this season has gone really well,” Louis said. “I think I’ve improved a lot. My freshman year, I was really slow and I didn’t have much consistency. I’ve been able to decrease my time and get faster over the years… I want to break the 17-minute mark because that could get me close to making the state meet. I also want our team to make it past sectionals, and I think we can do that because we have a really good team this year.”
Louis and the Hubs recently turned in their best team performance of the season, earning the fourth-place trophy at Genoa-Kingston’s Matt Walter Invitational. A four-year cross country and track athlete at RTHS, Louis is part of a core group of runners who were often raced up on varsity as underclassmen. Louis was a sophomore when the Rochelle boys placed second in the Freeport Invitational, an achievement he said was one of his favorites since joining the team.
“I think that really pushed us,” Louis said. “I was running 20 and 21-minute races my freshman year but my teammates and I were able to decrease our times by about 2-to-3 minutes because we were always running with faster people. Those races really pushed us forward.”
Louis broke the 18-minute mark for the first time at last season’s Matt Walter Invitational. The senior, who said he wants to study computer programming after high school, has formed a strong bond with his teammates. That bond was shown over the summer, when Louis and his teammates trained by running from Rochelle to Creston and even Malta.
“Santi [Cordoba] has helped me improve the most,” Louis said. “We’ve stuck together since we were freshmen and we’ve kept almost the same times… Our coaches have always pushed miles over the summer, but I hadn’t really done that until this year. I wanted to excel this year, so I set a goal to run 300 miles and I beat that. Santi, Aiden [Seldal] and I ran to Creston over the first week of summer, and we continued running further east to see how far we could get.”
Louis was one of two Rochelle cross country runners recognized with the program’s first-ever Summer Running Champion award. Named co-champion alongside senior Britney Baez, Louis ran more miles than any other boy on the team in preparation for his senior season. The cross country season will help Louis stay in shape for track, where he competes in the 800-meter run, the 1600-meter run and the 3200-meter relay for his former cross country coach Dobbs.
“I want to push myself in the 800,” Louis said. “My goal last season was to break the 5-minute mark in the mile… I really want to break the 2-minute mark in the 800 or run around that time. Coach Dobbs and coach [Mark] Zilis always worked together to create workouts, and coach Zilis has continued that this year.”