Evanston assistant coach Jesse Sibert whispered to a reporter during a casual conversation at the Top Times Invitational track meet Saturday at Illinois Wesleyan University that he hoped to provide the necessary training to bring star distance runner Enyaeva Michelin down to 4 minutes, 55 seconds in the 1600-meter race.
Only Sibert was talking about his goal once the calendar shifts to the end of the outdoor season. Michelin? She was in a bigger hurry than that.
The Evanston senior broke two school records and concluded the indoor season on a championship note with a triumph in the Class AAA 1600 in an astonishing time of 4:54.30 competing against some of the elite runners in the state of Illinois.
One of those elite runners — Glenbard West defending state cross country champion Katelynne Hart — was a no-show for both the 1600 and the 800, even though she was listed on the entry sheet. But if the Glenbard West distance standout, already considered a legend in Illinois circles as a sophomore, is looking over her shoulder more closely at Michelin these days, you can’t blame her.
Michelin broke her own school record by a whopping 5 seconds in the 1600, after settling for a runnerup finish in the 800 despite another record effort of 2:11.67 in the fastest half-mile race in the history of the Top Times Invitational that serves as the unofficial indoor state meet.
And the best may be yet to come for the University of North Carolina recruit once the competition shifts outdoors.
“I never could have expected that kind of double from Enyaeva today, not with just one hour between races,” Sibert pointed out. “All I could say after that 1600 was whoa, that was real nice! We had a game plan for the quarters (400 interval splits) that we wanted for her to stay on pace, and she stayed right on it.
“Now we’ll see what happens outdoors. We’ll have to see which combination (800-1600, 1600-3200, 3200-800) works best for her at State. We have to wait and see where some of the other young ladies (like Hart) are racing, and that will tell you where you want to go. No matter which double she goes for, I just want her to be able to be in contention (for a state championship).
“She might’ve run even faster today if Hart had been there. I think Enyaeva’s running her best right now — but I still see room for improvement, too. I’m not disappointed, not at all, but there’s always room for improvement and now we’ll go back to work.”
After enduring a 5-hour trip to Central Illinois and a delay because of whiteout weather conditions that covered the area, Michelin stormed to the lead in the 800 but couldn’t hang on. Schaumburg’s Maddie Marasco caught her in the last 20 meters and posted a winning time of 2:11.44, a meet record. Michelin was next in 2:11.67 and Highland Park sophomore Stephanie Kriss claimed 3rd in 2:11.83, the first time in meet history that three runners have finished under 2:12.
Michelin’s effort broke the outdoor school record of 2:12.20 set by Jahnell Horton in 2010.
“I thought all 3 of us did a really good job in that race,” Michelin said. “I was really happy to have Maddie in there to push me like that. She definitely deserved to win it and we all got the times we wanted to hit. It’s a loss, I know, but if you can’t handle losing, then you can’t handle winning. That’s just my personal motto. I was actually happy with that race. Everyone loses sometimes. But I got a PR (personal record) today and that’s pretty good reassurance for me going forward.”
There was no catching Michelin in the longer race, where she posted a wire-to-wire victory and lowered her own ETHS school mark from 4:59.10 to 4:54.30.
That’s the third straight 1600 race where she’s recorded a sub-5 minute clocking.
“That was my last high school indoor race and I felt really good about it,” she said. “I was a little upset that Hart wasn’t here, because she would have helped everyone run faster. But I was happy with the way I hit the splits on my own watch. It’s funny because I haven’t had the pre-race butterflies in other meets like I had today. Having a stacked race always helps motivate me, and of course I’m always happy to get those school records.
“On my way here I found out that (teammate) Abby Osterlund ran a 5:15 today at Lewis and that’s only the 2nd time she’s ever run the race, so I was really happy to hear that. I’m happy to see the distance side of the program doing so well and I really hope this group will bring down all of my records.”
Michelin agrees with her coaches that there’s no reason to make a choice yet about which races are in her future once the outdoor season starts. She’ll probably compete at least a couple of times at the 3200 distance early in the schedule.
“I haven’t run the 3200 yet, so I’ll dabble a little bit there,” added the ETHS senior. “Nothing is set in stone yet. We’ll see how the cookie crumbles.
“The fields are really stacked in all of them (800, 1600, 3200) and it shows how strong we are as a state. I don’t have a favorite race, and we’ll just see what other people decide to run. I just really needed this race today. Even though I was under 5 minutes the whole season I didn’t feel like I was where I wanted to be. I ended today on a positive note, and this gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.