No girls high school track program in the state of Illinois can top Evanston when it comes to performing at the Illinois High School Association state finals.

History shows that ETHS appears to be the only school to score at least 1 point in every single state final that has been conducted since the 1972-73 school year. And Enyaeva Michelin made sure that tradition for success remained intact Saturday at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.

Michelin placed 7th in the 800-meter run with a time of 2 minutes, 16.82 seconds to get ETHS on the state scoreboard again. The three points produced by the junior standout enabled the Wildkits to tie for 66th place in the Class 3A team standings.

Michelin made some history of her own even though she faded some  during the last 180 meters of the race. She is only the second female runner in school history to earn a state medal in the 800 event, the other being Jahnell Horton, who took 5th back in 2010.

Saturday’s showing by Michelin also reinforced the choice that she made — along with head coach Fenny Gunter and assistant coach Jessie Sibert — to concentrate on the 800 at State. She had also qualified in the 1600 at last week’s sectional meet but dropped out of that race and avoided what would have been a difficult “double” against the state’s elite distance runners.

As it turned out, the top 5 finishers in the 1600 Saturday all broke the 5-minute barrier, led by champion Katelynne Hart of Glenbard West in 4:51.54. That’s 20 seconds faster than Michelin’s best in that race.

“We knew it would be hard to do a double down here, and we wanted to give her the best chance to succeed,” Gunter pointed out. “That meant just running in one event, one where you could give it all you’ve got. And we knew the mile was going to be hot (fast). Enyaeva’s a better fit for the 800 because she’s got more turnover speed, and I thought it was a good decision. We let the girls have a voice and make the arguments they need to make, and she was definitely part of the (decision making) process.

“She kept our streak alive and that’s something a lot of schools can’t say. You won’t get a trophy every year, but we’ve consistently been able to get kids into the finals and to keep scoring every year when other schools can’t. Some of the older girls (alums) spoke to her about that before the race, but we didn’t want to put more pressure on her.

“We just told her to run her race and the tradition would take care of itself.”

 “The Evanston tradition lives,” smiled Michelin prior to receiving her medal. “It’s just amazing. We have some awesome alumni that I talked to, and I’m so glad I could keep it going.

“I’m happy with choosing the 800 over the 1600. I agreed with the decision because I think I can sustain a harder pace in the 800. You just see where the season (and training) will take you, and that’s where I belonged.

“Today I let the pack get away from me slightly on that second lap. I could have run that last curve a little better, and I felt like I let it slip away. But I’ll take 7th and being an All-State runner, because that was one of my goals this year. My positioning for that last curve just wasn’t good enough to finish higher.”

Michelin entered the state meet only seeded 16th based on sectional performances, then earned contender status with the second best clocking of 2:15.93 in Friday’s preliminaries en route to a victory in her heat.

“She ran a phenomenal race yesterday,” Gunter praised. “Today she recovered from a teeny-weeny mistake when she got boxed in by the field with about 200 meters left and got her feet tangled up with the girl from Mather (Rebecca Odusola). She almost went down but she regrouped. She could have lost her composure, but she didn’t. She finished up strong.

“Enyaeva has matured from her sophomore to junior year by about 1,000 percent, and that gave her the chance to have a successful track season. Next year we’ll give her some opportunities to run the mile, but she already has an idea that she wants to run the open 800 along with the 4 x 400 relay. I’m looking for her to get back down here again and see how she finishes up next year.”

“We’ll see what difference a year makes for her,” added Sibert. “I hope she’s back here in more than one event. This year we knew she had a much better shot in the 800, but that doesn’t mean it won’t change next year.

“Today she went up front at the start of the race just like I told her to, to get away from all that traffic. She did alright, and maybe next year she can move up.”

Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.

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

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