When it comes to attempting difficult “doubles” in a postseason track meet, Evanston girls coach Fenny Gunter knows which name to circle in the lineup.
Tauja Foreman turned in a performance that would have made former ETHS star Natasha Foreman — her cousin — proud at the Class 3A Loyola Academy Sectional meet Thursday.
The younger Foreman, one of only two seniors in the Wildkit lineup, qualified for the Illinois High School Association state finals in both hurdles races for the second year in a row and also helped Evanston advance in both the 400-meter and 800-meter relays.
She only had a few minutes rest between the 800 relay and the 300 hurdles, but scored a second place finish in the hurdles to cap an outstanding day in 60-plus degree weather in Wilmette.
Evanston claimed 6 individual qualifying spots for the state finals next weekend at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston and will also send two relay teams to the finals. Evanston scored 66 team points and trailed only New Trier (114.5) and Glenbrook South (66) in the 15-team sectional field.
Foreman claimed first place in the 110 hurdles in 14.88 seconds, just off her career best of 14.84 achieved at the state prelims last year. She teamed up with Hailey Taylor, Sabine Gratch and Kaila Holland for a runnerup finish in the 400 relay (49.44) and combined with Taylor, Gratch and Mina Jue to rule the 800 relay in 1:44.14.
The short time between races may have cost her at the finish of the 300 hurdles, where she was nosed out for first by a margin of 44.91 to 44.93 for winner Haley Click of Lake Forest. Foreman settled for a PR and an automatic advance to Charleston.
“This is the second year in a row we thought about scratching her out of that 300,” Gunter pointed out. “Tauja was one of a couple of our girls (Enyaeva Michelin also qualified in both the 800 and 1600) who really met the challenge we put out there for them.
“What Tauja did was really something and there was no way to really prepare her for it. We took her out of the 300 at the conference meet last Saturday and we thought we’d just save her for that 4 x 200 because we knew we’d have a better chance with her in there. But it was either Saturday or Sunday when I called Jesse (assistant coach Jesse Siebert) and I just said it’s time to take a chance, we’ll leave her in the 300.
“The last girl we asked to do that was her cousin ‘Tasha (ETHS Hall of Famer). We weren’t going to run Tauja in the 300 last year, and it worked out so that she wound up making the (state) finals. Tauja is a very determined young lady. All she needed today was some decent weather to run in and she got it.”
“My ultimate goal for today? To not be the only one (from Evanston) to go to State),” Foreman said. “I really wanted to get those underclassmen down there, too. This team is my heart, and I wanted those younger girls to have more opportunities than I ever did.
“Now they’ve got a chance to go, and now they have to take advantage of it. Today I felt less pressure at this meet than I did last year. My technique was sound in the 100 today, and even though I didn’t win the 300 I’ve always wanted to see a 44 (seconds) next to my name, so it was great to get that PR.
“Next week I need to push myself to my limits — and beyond. I feel confident because I have more experience under my belt and I understand more what the coaches are telling me to do. I don’t want to walk off that track (at EIU) not having done my best. I’d be proud if I could do that.”
Taylor, the other Wildkit senior standout, earned runnerup finishes in the long jump (16 feet, 10.75 inches) and open 200 (25.36). She qualified in the long jump for the second year in a row but hasn’t shown the consistency she had as a junior, where she turned in the 10th best jump at the state finals after reaching 18 feet during the season.
“This hasn’t been an easy year for Hailey. Right now she’s kinda just hanging on,” Gunter acknowledged. “But nobody expected her to be in the top 10 in the long jump last year, and she has had some good jumps that were fouls. She just needs to clean some things up, and now she has another week to make matters right and get one of those top spots on Saturday.”
Michelin had to deal with a difficult double of her own. The competition in both the 800 (8 state qualifiers overall) and 1600 (6 qualifiers) lived up to advance billing as far as the degree of difficulty getting through.
The Evanston junior responded with a sixth place showing in the 800 in 2:17.18, more than two seconds under the state qualifying standard, and came back with a fifth in the 1600 in 5:08.54. Gunter indicated after the meet that Michelin probably would just focus on one race, the 800, down in Charleston.
“Both those races will be hot (fast) at State and I think the 800 will be a better fit down there for Enyaeva,” the coach said. “She can just go down there (as a first-time qualifier) and run the heck out of one race. She’s had a really productive year for us and we don’t want her to go out on a negative note by asking her to do too much. “
A rested Michelin could threaten the school record of 2:12.2 set by Jahnell Horton back in 2010.
Among Evanston’s non-qualifiers, sophomore Sasha Gordon placed 3rd in the triple jump at 34 feet, 4 inches behind a pair of 36-foot qualifiers from New Trier and Glenbrook South. Another sophomore, Iman Musinovic, earned 4th in the 100 hurdles in 15.92, just off the qualifying standard of 15.59.
The Wildkits took 6th in the 1600 relay as the all-underclassmen foursome of Asia Eddy, Cindji Dieujuste, Noni Shelton and Gabrielle Horton was clocked in 4:07 flat.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.