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Amarteifio maintains focus, leads Kit runners to title

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Roland Amarteifio doesn’t really mind running a race by himself. But he’d much rather have had the chance to knock off the defending state high hurdle champion Saturday in Springfield.

The ETHS senior — with state champion William Session of Belleville East watching in street clothes — breezed to a pair of hurdle victories and led Evanston to the team championship at the 10th annual Capitol City Classic invitational hosted by Springfield Lanphier.

Amarteifio scored lopsided wins in the 110-meter and 300-meter hurdle races — by almost two full seconds in each race — and the Wildkits piled up a dozen top 5 finishes overall for a winning total of 67 points. Bloomington finished 2nd in the 19-team field with 54.

On a sunny, 80-degree day in central Illinois no individual shined more than Amarteifio. He won the high hurdles in a time of 14.7 seconds — the second place time was 15.89 — and almost broke the meet record in the 300 hurdles with a time of 38.79, easily beating out the runnerup in 40.77.

Session’s absence for school disciplinary reasons didn’t disrupt Amarteifio’s focus, a sign that the Evanston senior has already learned from a mistake he made running indoors against the Belleville East standout at the Prep Top Times meet last month. He tried to sneak a peak at the Belleville runner at the end of the race, tripped over the final hurdle and wound up with 7 stitches in his left arm along with the failed effort at an upset.

Amarteifio said Saturday’s he’s made a vow not to let that happen again.

“That was my first fall since my freshman year, and it was a humbling experience. That made me want it more, want to put in more effort,” said Amarteifio. “Every time I look at my arm I remember that it was my mistake that cost me the race, and if I was doing what I was supposed to do, just focusing on my own lane, I could have beat him. I can’t get distracted or forget to focus.

“When I didn’t see him line up for the highs, I asked one of his teammates after the race where he was. I thought he might have some kind of injury, but the kid told me he wasn’t running at all today. I was a little disappointed he wasn’t there, but coach (Don Michelin) told me to re-focus, run my own race and everything will work out.

“The highs wasn’t a great race for me. I don’t like running alone, I like it when someone’s pushing me. I crave competition and I don’t want to just blow people out. But I am happy that my times were both ahead of what I ran here last year. I just want to continue to improve, and it’s exciting to know that I got close to that record in the intermediate hurdles.”

“He was so far ahead — by at least 2 hurdles — in the 300 that it was almost embarrassing,” Michelin said. “What I told him was that he had to run hard, because you never know what college coach might be in the stands. With competition he might have gotten that meet record (38.60). He did a great job of handling the fact that Session wasn’t running because he knew he still had to take care of business. That lack of self-discipline and focus cost him at the Top Times, and he knows he just has to be concerned about his own lane.

“We won the meet here for the first time today, and we got the best of both worlds because our theme (moving forward) is that guys still have a lot to work to do. We need to improve in so many ways I can’t even count them all. It was huge that we scored so many points in the field events this year. Last year (2nd place finish) this meet jump-started out season, and look where we ended up (tied for 2nd at the Illinois High School Association state finals).”

Michelin expects the Wildkits to be in the hunt for a team trophy again this spring, led by Amarteifio and junior Brad Garron. On paper, Evanston is a still that could score in 6 or 7 events at the Class 3A finals, if the Kits make the progress the ETHS staff is anticipating.

On Saturday, the 400-meter relay team of Amarteifio, Garron, B.J. Bamgbose and Brian Daniels placed 2nd in a quick 43.03, with Zion-Benton claiming top honors at 42.70. State qualifying standard in that race is 42.70.

Also scoring top 5 finishes for the meet champs were Garron, 3rd in the 200 in 22.32; Morgan Brown, 3rd in the discus at 140 feet, 8 inches; Jonathan Connerly-Bey, 3rd in the shot put at 51-3; and the 1600 relay team of Amarteifio, Bamgbose, Daniels and Michael Henry, 3rd in 3:26.3.

Garron tied for 4th in the open 100 in 11.51; Bamgbose added a 4th in the 110 hurdles in 16.3; Christian Nielsen earned a 4th in the shot put at 50-2.5; and sophomore Jonathan Wilburn took 5th in the triple jump at 41-9. The Wildkits also ran 5th in the 800 relay in 1:32 flat.

Sophomore Logan Singer scored a pair of personal best performances, taking 7th in the open 800 in 1:59.52 — breaking the 2 minute mark for the first time — and then coming back with a 9th place effort of 4:44.23 in the 1600.   

Dennis Mahoney

Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for Evanston Township High School.

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