Since the Evanston girls track team hadn’t yet turned in a relay time under the Illinois High School Association state qualifying standards — blame it on cold, wet spring weather and the fact that no set lineup combinations have been established yet — that’s where head coach Fenny Gunter placed his emphasis for Thursday’s Central Suburban League South division championship meet at Niles North.
The Wildkits claimed championships in both the 4 x 100-meter and 4 x 200 races and earned runnerup honors in the 4 x 400 with a season best time of 4 minutes, 4.34 seconds that did beat the qualifying standard.
But Gunter admitted after the Wildkits placed fourth in the team standings that he may be no closer to deciding on his relay lineups than he was prior to the meet.
The IHSA Sectional is scheduled for Thursday at Loyola Academy , so the immediate challenge for all of those competing for relay spots will be time trials against their teammates and some heart-to-heart discussions with their head coach.
Gunter and his staff will try to balance the best individual interests of seniors like Tauja Foreman and Hailey Taylor against the possibility that warmer weather will help some of the relay teams score significant time drops next week.
“We’re going to have to do some soul-searching to decide on those relays,” said Gunter after ETHS, competing in only 7 varsity events, trailed New Trier (180.5), Glenbrook South (112) and Maine South (102) in the team standings with 58 points. Bringing up the rear in the field were Niles West (57.5) and Niles North (46).
“Once we lost our anchor (Davis Patterson due to an injury) for the 400 and 800 a couple of weeks ago, that hurt. But at least it happened early enough that we were able to work with some of the other girls,” the coach said. “Even if we put Hailey or Tauja in the 800 relay, we could still be short one girl. We’ll try to make the best decisions for the seniors.
“Today in the 1600 we needed to see if it was feasible for us to run with New Trier (4:04 seed and likely the team to beat at the sectional). As much as Hailey hates to run the mile relay — like most sprinters do — she’s really a quarter-miler. I thought we should have run a little faster, like maybe a 4:01, in that race. Or, we could run both her and Tauja in the open 200 — or maybe just one of them.
“We’ll sit down with the older girls and talk with them about what they think is best. We don’t want to lock them into relays that might not have a chance Downstate when they can do well in the individual races. We want to make sure they all go out on a good note.”
Gunter scratched most of his stars out of individual races, thus denying defending conference champs Foreman (300 hurdles) and Taylor (open 100) the possibility of another title. Foreman did capture the 100 hurdles in 15.09 seconds for Evanston’s only individual victory Thursday.
The Kit foursome of Taylor, Foreman, Mina Jue and Kaila Holland ruled the 400 relay in 50.2, just off the state qualifying mark of 49.45. In the 800 relay, the team of Taylor, Foreman, Jue and Asa Eddy turned in a winning time of 1:46.67, a full second quicker than runnerup New Trier.
In the final race of the day, the 1600 relay, Taylor and Enyaeva Michelin provided a huge lead for ETHS on the first two legs and Eddy maintained about a 20-yard gap for anchor runner Noni Shelton. But Shelton couldn’t hold on against a late charge from New Trier sophomore Marne Sullivan.
Sullivan, who also scored individual wins in the 800 and 400, charged past Shelton just before the finish as the Trevs edged the Kits by a margin of 4:04.05 to 4:04.34.
Michelin dropped down from the 1600 and 800 to get some speed work done and broke one minute for the first time in the open 400, placing second in 59.95. Taylor added a third in the long jump with a best effort of 16 feet, 9 inches, and Shelton settled for third in the triple jump, an event where she was the defending champ. She topped out at 34 feet, 8 inches.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.