Skeptics who follow high school track and field in Illinois might scoff at the idea that the Illinois Top Times invitational meet held every year is the “indoor state championship.”
After all, the top performers statewide don’t always come to compete even when they’re invited. And there’s no real evidence that success at the conclusion of the indoor season means a gold medal when the Illinois High School Association outdoor state championships are held.
Let the skeptics argue those points. Evanston’s runners aren’t about to apologize for capturing gold medals in the Class 3A 800-meter and 1600-meter relay races Saturday at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington.
Malachi Adams, Reggie Murphy, Marcus Starks and Brad Garron teamed up for a winning time of 1 minute, 31.08 seconds in the 800 race and the Wildkit foursome of Ryan Christie, Trinton Jones and Carl Klamm held off Homewood-Flossmoor in the 1600 with a 3:25.16 clocking.
Both times were season bests for ETHS, which had never won more than one relay in a given year at the invitational, dating back to when it was first held in Champaign.
Head coach Don Michelin knows that this year the Kits will be a threat to compete on the final Saturday in May when the scene shifts outdoors, regardless of whether the so-called experts think of them as the favorites based on Saturday’s showing.
“This is an indication that they worked hard and came here with a purpose, and that was to do well,” the coach said. “And the way I remember it, the guys who did well here last year also did well at (outdoor) State.
“I’m very happy with the way we ran in the 4 x 200. Most years we don’t have four solid runners like that. And in the 4 x 400, I still think we can do some tweaking — like with the order — and get better. I still think they can drop some time.”
Although technically he had the slowest split in the 800, it was the veteran Murphy who made a difference with his sharp cut into the inside lane after leadoff man Adams ran his part of the race in Lane 5. That maneuver kept the Kits from getting boxed in, and Garron’s 21.89 anchor leg sealed the victory.
“Starks actually broke it open and pulled away on that third leg,” noted Michelin, “but Reggie seized the reins for us when he cut in like that at just the right time. Any time we get Malachi handing off to Reggie, that’s an advantage for us. They know each other so well and the way they communicate out there is really something. Their exchange today was like one in the 4 x 100 outdoors. They understand each other so well.”
Evanston owned the top seed in the 1600 coming into the meet, and beat their seed time of 3:27.36 by more than 2 seconds. A determined Klamm refused to let H-F’s anchor runner pass him and needed a 49.53 split to add to Evanston’s win total.
Junior hurdler Roland Amarteifio sprinted to a 2nd place finish in the 60 high hurdles with a personal best time of 8.24. He was edged out by Eric Walker of St. Rita, who was clocked in 8.10.
And the boost that race should give to Amarteifio’s confidence can’t necessarily be measured by what medal he brought home.
“This is the meet that made Roland a champion. Now he knows he can run with these guys,” said Michelin. “I still think the intermediates can be his best event (outdoors). As young as he is, for him to take on that high hurdle event like he has — one that’s so technical, where you have to worry about your lead leg, your trail leg and running fast between the hurdles — is really something. He’s become a student of that race, and he’s always trying to improve.”
Klamm saved his best for last after settling for 4th place finishes in both the 800 (1:58.45) and 400 (50.56). The senior standout was the defending champion in the 800, but never really threatened and trailed Barrington’s Konrad Eiring (1:56.82), Matt Goldby of Jacobs and Heath Warren of Springfield the entire race.
His open 400 time was a season best, with Corey Hertz of Lakes crossing the line first in 49.02.
Adams contributed a 5th in the 200 (22.50) and a 7th in the 60 dash (7.04), while Jones ran 10th in the open 400 in a season best 52.05. Two other Evanston runners, Murphy in the 60 and Babajide Bamgbose in the 60 hurdles, couldn’t advance out of the preliminaries.
Source: ETHS Sports Information