If the members of the Evanston girls track coaching staff weren’t 100 percent certain that moving Enyaeva Michelin from the half mile to the mile this season was a good idea, the ETHS junior made the only statement necessary Saturday at the 22nd annual Lady Panther Invitational hosted by Proviso West to back up that decision.
Michelin chopped 9 seconds off her previous best time and established a new school indoor record for the Wildkits, winning the 1600-meter run in 5 minutes, 11.84 seconds. She scored Evanston’s only individual win on the varsity level, leading the Kits to a 6th place finish in the 14-team field with 36 points. East St. Louis Senior claimed the team title with 120.5 points.
Michelin has run the 1600 only sparingly during the high school track season in the past, preferring to concentrate instead on the 800. Now she’s ready to take on another challenge after qualifying for the Illinois High School Association state finals in cross-country (a 3 mile event) this past fall.
Female distance standouts in the state of Illinois have almost turned the 1600 into a sprint event — even more so than the 800 — but that doesn’t deter Michelin. She broke the previous school indoor mark of a 5:13.12 set by Amy Simon back in 1981.
“I think I plateaued in the 800 last year as far as my times, and I really didn’t get anywhere,” said the Evanston junior. “I think I have a lot more room for growth and improvement in the 1600. I’ll probably run the 2 mile (3200 meters) a couple of times when we get outdoors, too, but my overall high school goal now is that I want to complete a sub-5 minute mile. If I go hard like I should in practice and hit my time goals, that’s what will get me there at some point. I’m also trying to stay as healthy as possible. ”
“I think she’ll stay in the mile,” said Evanston head coach Fenton Gunter. “Coach Sibert (assistant coach Jesse) will look at her options, but I think she’s not quick enough for the half (on an elite level) and she’s not as much in her element when she runs that. I think she’s more comfortable with that mile pace and we want the best chance for her to qualify out of the sectional (outdoors). If she listens to Jesse and stay healthy, she’ll get positive results.
“We always knew she had the potential to run this fast. She’s just starting to understand how to train and how to follow a (race) plan. She’s still learning, but she’s gotten way better at that. Her biggest asset is that now she’s not worried about who is in the race with her, just sticking to the plan and you’ll come up with the times, like she did today. She had a great performance today and she ran that time by herself.”
Second place finisher Katie Hohe of Glenbard West ran 21 seconds slower than Michelin, who burst out of Lane 8 on the far outside of the track and took the lead right from the start.
“My goal today was a 5:12, and to do that I had to run 39 seconds per lap and stay on pace,” she said. “I ran so relaxed. My coaches told me to take it out and not to play any games. It’s more about trying to hit my splits and that’s a much better mindset for me to have. I’m less stubborn than I was last year, and I’m listening to the coaches. The motto for this year is ‘It’s you against the watch and nobody else’. Now I’m just concerned with the times I can run.”
Evanston’s first indoor test for one of the youngest teams Gunter has coached in his long tenure at the helm found the Kits only entering a handful of events at the varsity level. Exactly half of the girls squad is made up of 20 incoming freshmen, so it will take time for the ETHS staff to sort out the best events for all of them leading to eventual fits in the varsity lineup.
At the varsity level, returning state qualifier Hailey Taylor fouled on all four of her long jump attempts but did contribute a 2nd place finish in the 55-meter dash (7.4 flat) and a 4th in the open 400 meters (1:01.33). Tauja Foreman, another returning state qualifier, took 4th in the 200 (27.48) and 4th in the 55 hurdles (8.94).
Noni Shelton placed 3rd in the triple jump with a best effort of 34 feet, 9.75 inches.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.