There’s no real definition in the dictionary for the term “senioritis,” but every head coach and every high school athlete competing in their final spring seasons knows just what it means.
You’re not as eager to report for those early morning workouts. Those bumps and bruises become bad enough — at least in your mind — to keep you out of a game or two. And you’re not the first one in line to volunteer to do anything extra with the finish to the season — and maybe your career — in sight.
In the classroom, it can lead to ignored homework assignments or even skipped classes. The worst case scenarios can result in academic ineligibility for parts or all of the final high school semester.
Joe Eovaldi is one of those seniors fighting the malaise that has already impacted some of his teammates on Evanston’s boys track team.
Eovaldi’s solution? Just win, baby.
The senior distance standout accounted for two of Evanston’s five first-place finishes Friday night as the Wildkits earned the team title at the Thornton Classic Invitational for the fourth year in a row. The Wildkits outscored Homewood-Flossmoor, a squad expected to challenge for a team trophy at the Class 3A Illinois High School Association state finals, by a 142-128 margin on Thornton’s newly-renovated track.
Eovaldi captured the 3200-meter title in a hand time of 9 minutes, 56.54 seconds and came back later to sprint past teammate Logan Singer for the win in the 1600 in 4:36.68. Singer took top honors in the 800, in 1:58.05, and pole vaulter Davis Patterson triumphed in his specialty for the second year in a row at the meet, clearing 13 feet even on Friday.
Evanston also claimed a relay win in the 3200, where the foursome of Julion Michelin, Nick Baumann, James Moran and Alex Tokmakoff posted a winning time of 8:25.6.
Eovaldi’s two triumphs were no surprise to the Wildkit coaching staff or to the senior himself, considering that he won the 1600 at the meet last year and that south suburban teams in the field haven’t been strong in the distance events in the recent past.
But the trip to Harvey was definitely worth it for Eovaldi, who has found himself in the grip of “senioritis” at various stages of a season that is long when you consider that it actually starts with the indoor part of the schedule.
“Personally, I’ve had to fight through a low energy level the past couple of weeks,” the senior said. “It’s a long season and it’s a grueling season. If we’re able to fight this off, then the whole team will come through better, and I see a real surge coming for the entire team.
“That’s the reason I love coming to this meet so much, because it’s a big payday with two first-place medals that will help me get up and be ready to go tomorrow morning at practice. I am fighting senioritis and if you use it the right way, it can make you stronger. You’ve got to pay attention in class and get it done there, or subconsciously it can translate over into your practices.
“I ran a crappy mile last week at Glenbard West and I was so disappointed, I started feeling sorry for myself. I had to learn from that and fight through it, and that’s what worked for me tonight. You just have to stay committed and stay focused on what really matters. You have to give everything you do a really good effort.”
Friday’s meet actually marked the first 3200-1600 double for Eovaldi this spring. The senior, who also qualified for the IHSA state cross country finals, has typically competed in the 3200 relay and the open 1600.
“I’m not a huge fan of running the 3200,” he admitted. “But it was important for me to get some work in tonight. I really wanted to go about 9:38 ish, and I understand that this was about putting in the work for the sectional and state.”
Friday’s team triumph was encouraging for Evanston head coach Don Michelin, considering that the Wildkits were missing his grandson Sacrad from the starting lineup. The team’s top sprinter injured his foot lifting weights and hopes to return for next week’s Central Suburban League South division meet at Maine South.
“Not having Sacrad hurt us, but I thought we came down here and competed well. We did well in the races we were supposed to do well in,” Michelin said. “We’re really going to need him back for the conference, so I hope he’s ready to go by then.
“I think the way to offset senioritis is to reiterate the team vision to the guys as often as you can in your day-to-day agenda. You tell them that now we’re in the championship season (conference, sectional, state) and now it’s time to go. The guys have to make it happen, and at Evanston our vision is always to be at our absolute best over the last three weeks of the season.
“Joey is a guy who leads by example, who reaches out to the other guys and delivers the message. They follow him. We won’t let senioritis interfere with the momentum we have now as a team. We’re going to focus on the goal, and we’re going to finish it.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.