In years when the Evanston girls track team isn’t really in contention for the team title, head coach Fenton Gunter has used the Central Suburban League South division meet to audition runners for postseason spots on various relay teams.
That pattern continued Thursday at Maine South, and while Gunter still has some decisions to make, there’s no doubt now that freshman Gabriella Calixte will be part of the mix for next week’s Class 3A sectional meet at Niles West.
The first-year sprinter scored runnerup varsity finishes in both the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes, and teamed up with Asa Eddy, Ariel Logan and Chassa Pratt to win the 400 relay in a time (49.89 seconds) that was just off the established Illinois High School Association state qualifying standard of 49.39.
Evanston won only one other event, as senior standout Enyaeva Michelin filled in a box on her impressive career resume by capturing the open 400 in 58.64. It marks the first conference track title for Michelin, who used the quarter mile race for turnover training and likely won’t run that event again.
Evanston settled for a 4th place finish in the team standings with 75 points, trailing New Trier (147), Glenbrook South (127) and Maine South (110). Niles West (47) and Niles North (46) rounded out the standings.
Calixte, the diminuitive daughter of ETHS head boys soccer coach Franz Calixte, is making a name for herself even though heat sheets have spelled her first name as “Gabrielle” for many of her invitational appearances. While her second-place times — 13.03 in the 100 and 26.61 in the 200 — were slower than her actual seed times, it’s been awhile since a freshman has made an impact for the Wildkits at a postseason meet.
Gunter typically prefers to ease talented rookies into the varsity lineup only in relays, not in open events. But the veteran coach likes the way Calixte competes, and even a botched handoff between Calixte and Pratt on the first exchange of the 800 relay (the Kits were disqualified as a result) didn’t diminish her performance Thursday.
“For her to finish second in two varsity races was outstanding,” Gunter praised. “Tonight was a good workout for her. We’re trying to get her to understand that she’s more of a ‘long’ sprinter (200/400 combination instead of 100/200) and there’s a lot of top side to her. She fits well for us on the relays and she just needs to get a little stronger.
“We were looking at a number of options on the relays tonight and we switched her and Chassa on that 800. We’re just trying to eliminate every scenario before we get to the sectional. We looked at a couple of other girls (including Pratt) on the 4 x 400 who had never run any 400s before, too.”
The conference meet didn’t answer any questions regarding Michelin, who is a legitimate threat to win a state championship at three distances — 800 meters, 1600 meters and 3200 meters. Gunter said his strategy is to enter the talented senior in three events for the sectional next Thursday — then scratch her out of one race on that day.
He’s not sure which race she WON’T run yet.
“Enyaeva got her turnover work in tonight and got that long overdue conference championship,” the coach kidded. “Now, the package is pretty much complete for her. It’s just a matter of picking the two best races for her now.
“We’ll find a race (for State) that we think she can really excel at, and then we’ll find her secondary event. She’ll have to run hard both days at State no matter what she runs. We’re not talking about winning state championships. We just want her to have a chance to run on the second day (at the state finals) and perform well. Once you get to that second day, anything can happen.”
The Wildkits also counted top 6 finishes at the conference meet from Iman Musinovic, 2nd in the 100 hurdles in 16.64; Eddy, 3rd in the long jump at 16 feet, 3.5 inches; Sasha Gordon, 4th in the triple jump at 34-6.5; Gabrielle Horton, 4th in the 400 in 1:01.84; Maia Hadaway, 5th in the 200 in 27.07; Mia Dzwierzynski, 5th in the 1600 in a career best 5:19.29; Abby Osterlund, 5th in the 800 in 2:27.51; Alliyah Jones, 6th in the triple jump at 34-3 and 6th in the long jump at 15-7; Eavan Noman, 6th in the 800 in 2:29.36; Sabine Gratch, 6th in the 300 hurdles in 51.01; and Hannah Lipman, 6th in the 1600 in 5:21.31.
Evanston also placed 3rd in the 1600 relay, in 4:10.12, behind the quartet of Jones, Pratt, Eddy and Cyndji Dieujuste.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.