A total of eight top 10 finishes at the unofficial indoor state championship track and field meet Saturday night — otherwise known as the Illinois Top Times Class 3A Championships — at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington should have been a cause for celebration for Evanston head coach Don Michelin and his team.

But the veteran coach knows his squad will have to perform better two months from now when the actual Illinois High School Association outdoor state finals are held.

A third place finish in the 3200-meter relay proved to be the highlight for the Wildkits, who also counted a 5th from Jamal Perrin in the triple jump and a 6th from Max Peterson in the 800-meter run Saturday. The meet featured most of the state’s top runners and jumpers and is by invitation-only, based on performances over the past couple of months.

“This wasn’t a step forward for us, but it wasn’t a step backward, either,” said Michelin. “We have to regroup now and start building for the conference and sectional meets outdoors. We were close in a lot of areas today — but we’re not there yet. When you see that you’re this close, now that motivates you to work even harder.”

The 3200 relay unit of Julion Michelin, Giacomo Conde, Allan Ellis and Peterson turned in a season-best clocking of 8 minutes, 8.80 seconds on their way to a 3rd place finish behind DeKalb (8:04.45) and Lane Tech (8:06.82). That was Evanston’s fastest time by almost 3 seconds, as anchor man Peterson (1:58.78) and leadoff man Michelin (2:00.35) contributed the fastest legs.

But Michelin, bothered by a leg injury he suffered earlier in the week, faded on the anchor lap of the final race of the day, the 1600 relay. The oft-injured senior (grandson of the head coach) was in 3rd place when he took the baton from teammate Peterson, but couldn’t find his stride and the Wildkits eventually settled for 8th overall in 3:31.34, 4 seconds slower than their seed time.

Coach Michelin said Julion was held out of some of the team’s practices earlier in the week after the senior complained of a problem with his calf.

Replacing him won’t be easy if the injury keeps him from making the progress he needs to make outdoors.

“We backed off when he felt something in his leg earlier this week, and he felt good after the 4 x 800,” Coach Michelin pointed out. “But he didn’t feel good after the 4 x 400. Hopefully it’s not too bad, because we need to get him back.

“We also learned today that the best situation for Max Peterson is probably for him to run the 800-1600 double — and maybe the mile relay, too. We have some other pieces we can put in that 4 x 800 — maybe J.J. Klamm, maybe Jay Moran, maybe George Hannah or maybe even (quarter-miler) Ayoub El-Ashmawi.”

Peterson ran on two relay teams and placed 6th in the 800 in 2:00.74. The junior is building toward an eventual “triple” that could find him attempting the 3200 relay, and the open 800 and 1600 races in big postseason meets.

Perrin claimed 5th in the triple jump with a best effort of 44 feet, 1.75 inches. He was seeded 3rd with a previous best of 46-7.

Also finishing in the top 10 were sophomore Khalil Johnson, 9th in the 60 hurdles in a season-best 8.48 seconds; Sacrad Michelin, 9th in the 200 in 23.08; El-Ashmawi, 9th in the 400 in 51.39; and the sixth place 800 relay team of Sacrad Michelin, Johnson, Isaac Hunter and Peter Braithwaite, timed in a season best 1:33.45.

On the girls side, the 3200 relay team of Hannah Lipman, Gabrielle Horton, Eavan Norman and Abby Osterlund ran 4th in their fastest time of the season, an effort of 9:29.45. Osterlund then came back to place 7th in the 1600 in 5:08.73, a personal best for the senior standout.

Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for Evanston Township High School.

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