If Remy Amarteifio and Alexia Harvey haven’t learned anything else in four years participating in the Evanston girls track program, they’ve learned how to deal with adversity.
Following a non-qualifying performance in the 400-meter relay event at Thursday’s Class 3A Loyola Academy Sectional meet, the two Wildkit seniors bounced back with a 1-2 finish in the 100 high hurdles to provide a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing day for Evanston.
Evanston’s young squad advanced only two other individuals — senior Genora Garcia in the shot put and junior Gabrielle Watson in the high jump — and failed to qualify a relay team for the Illinois High School Association state finals for the first time in the history of the program.
Since the program started at ETHS back in 1974, the Wildkits have enjoyed more state final success in the relays than any other school in Illinois.
That streak ended Thursday as Evanston placed fourth in the 400 relay (50.55 seconds), third in the 800 relay (1:46.09) and fourth in the 1600 relay (4:05.21). The top two finishers in each race earned automatic qualification for next weekend’s two-day finals at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, and the Kits were also unable to run faster than the established IHSA standards on a cool and sometimes windy day in Wilmette.
Coach Fenton Gunter’s team totaled 67 points overall, good for fourth place behind New Trier (116), Loyola Academy (82) and Highland Park (81.3) in the 13-team field.
“We’ve been in existence since 1974 and we’ve done so well in the relays, but I guess there’s a first time for everything,” Gunter sighed. “We’ve just been getting by in some of those races all season and we knew we needed to drop a lot more time even if we were going to do something next week. The other teams just ran hard and ran well, and we didn’t run well enough. Four of the six girls we had in those races are new kids (first-year runners as freshmen and sophomores) and without a doubt, I thought our inexperience showed today.
“I was a little concerned how Remy and Alexia would come back in the hurdles, but they really responded well. I was glad to see it, especially for Alexia, because she’s had a rough year for us. She showed some grit and she fought to hold onto second place. And now they won’t have to worry about their stick work (practicing relay exchanges) this week in practice. Now Remy’s energy can go into the hurdles, and the same thing for Alexia.”
The pair repeated their 1-2 sectional finish of a year ago, with Amarteifio blazing her way to a winning time of 14.66 and Harvey fighting off Niles West’s Jazmine Rafanan for runnerup honors in 15.38. Amarteifio’s time was just a tick off the personal best time of 14.65 she racked up in the qualifying heat.
“It was hard to come back after the 4 x 100, but coach always tells us to take one race at a time,” Amarteifio said. “There was nothing I could do about it. I just had to keep looking forward and trust my training and trust the coaches. I just wanted to get a PR today, and I got it. I’ve gotten more aggressive this year, and next week I just want to get another PR.”
Amarteifio was singled out for a special honor by Gunter even before the competition began. The veteran ETHS coach issued a throwback orange and blue team jersey dating back to the 1980s for the senior standout to wear in her races.
“I was talking with some of our older girls (alumni) on the phone earlier in the week, telling them about Remy, because they all know that if you wear that jersey, that means you’ve earned it,” Gunter said. “We only have about four of those vintage uniforms left and we let the older girls know we were considering it. Remy’s the face of our program now after starting at the bottom as a freshman, and working her way up. Anyone who gets to wear one of those jerseys has paid the price, and that’s why Remy went old school.”
Evanston’s relay dilemma started in the 400, where they missed the qualifying time of 49.44 with a 50.55 clocking. The difference between Evanston’s time in the 800 and the qualifying standard was less than a second, and that fade to fourth place in the 1600 on the final leg left the Kits with a time of 4:05.21 when they needed to match or better the standard of 4:04.24.
Both Garcia and Watson earned trips to Charleston with respective runnerup performances in the shot put and high jump.
Garcia’s best toss of 39 feet, 5 inches trailed only Fiona Kanam of Niles North (40-9.75) as the senior qualified for State for the first time. Garcia also placed fifth in the discus at 100-9.
Watson made it for the second year in a row in the high jump, as both she and champion Madison Knobloch of Highland Park cleared 5-foot-1 but Knobloch prevailed on the basis of fewer misses.
Underclassmen accounted for the rest of Evanston’s top six individual finishes, led by sophomore Hailey Taylor. She qualified for the finals of the open 100 and ran sixth in 13.18, then came back to take fourth in the open 200 in 27.14.
Freshman Noni Shelton’s top triple jump effort of 33-9.5 placed a solid third and another freshman, Enyaeva Michelin, claimed fourth in the 800 in 2:25.45. Junior Crea Taylor contributed a fifth in the 300 hurdles in 49.15.
Source: ETHS Sports Information