The legacy of success for the Evanston boys track program means that it isn’t easy to set a school record in any event these days.
But Brad Garron and Roland Amarteifio are establishing their own legacies for the Wildkits this spring.
Both standouts turned in record performances Thursday at the Class 3A Loyola Academy Sectional meet, leading Evanston to its 5th straight sectional team championship and stamping the Wildkits as a team that figures to again be in the hunt for a trophy at the Illinois High School Association state finals in Charleston next weekend.
A victory in the final race of the day, the 1600-meter relay, allowed Evanston to edge Prospect by an 85-80 margin in the team standings on a sunny day in Wilmette. ETHS, with Garron and Amarteifio both accounting for a pair of wins, grabbed 7 individual qualifying spots for the IHSA finals along with that relay win. Top two finishers in each event automatically advanced to State, along with others who bettered existing qualifying standards.
Garron, whose workload at the end of the meets is enough to take away anyone’s breath, established a school mark on his way to a win in the open 400 meters with a clocking of 47.90 seconds. He wiped out the old school record of 48.31 set two years ago by Carl Klamm.
Garron came back to capture first place in the open 200, in 21.82, and combined with Amarteifio, Brian Daniels and Michael Henry to rule the 1600 relay in 3:18.82, a drop of almost 8 full seconds from Evanston’s seed time coming into the race.
“Yes, that 400 felt a little different,” Garron said. “People have told me that I have to do a better job of moving my arms through the first 200 of the race but I usually come out running relaxed the first part of the race. I was still relaxed today, but I kept my arms and legs moving.
“I haven’t even really thought about breaking the record yet. When I go home tonight I’ll probably think omigosh, look what I did! And next week I’ll have the push from the competition at a state level going for me.”
Amarteifio blazed his way to victories in both hurdles races. After claiming top honors in the 110 highs in a personal best 14.27, he dominated the 300 hurdles with a winning time of 38.05 that eclipsed the previous ETHS record of 38.45 by Duane Stone in 1998.
He ran almost a full second faster in the longer race than runnerup Gavin Hoch of Lake Forest, who actually had the best seed time (37.96) prior to the race. Hoch’s time Thursday was 39.01.
Amarteifio hasn’t lost a 300 hurdle race since last year’s state finals.
“I know you’re not supposed to think about it like that, but I did think about the fact that I haven’t lost in the 300 this year,” said the senior standout. “I thought now it’s about to get real against the No. 1 (ranked) guy in 3A. So I’m really happy about the way I performed today.
“I thought I ran a good time, but I had no idea I got the record. Wow, that’s amazing! And I didn’t run as well as I wanted to. That’s what’s really encouraging because I know I can still improve my time next week.
“I think I’m set up pretty well for next week in both races now. I’ll get a middle lane in the 110s, and I’ll probably be one of the heat leaders (for preliminary races) in the 300, and that’s good because I want to be in a middle lane and be in the thick of things. Being in those lanes will allow me to run the races I know I can run.”
ETHS head coach Don Michelin credited Amarteifio’s leadoff leg in the 1600 relay for setting the tone there, too. It was the first time the foursome of Amarteifio, Daniels, Henry and Garron had run together in that order all season, and they were among 5 teams to qualify for State in that race alone.
“Roland led off that mile relay so well and the others responded to what he did,” Michelin praised. “He put them in the mix (at the front), Daniels and Henry ran their butts off, and that gave Brad a chance to win it for us. Roland is the best senior male athlete at ETHS and he proved that in the toughest sectional in the state.
“He and Brad have done it for us all year. They train together and they’re always pushing one another to be the best. That’s why they’ve both succeeded.”
Joining the pair as state qualifiers were triple jump champion Jonathan Wilburn, and second place finishers Morgan Brown (discus) and Jonathan Connerly-Bey (shotput).
Wilburn, a sophomore, soared a personal best 46 feet, 3.5 inches after falling short of the 45-foot mark all spring. He earned his first trip to State after assistant coach Vernard Harris had considered not letting him attempt any jumps in the finals, figuring that a 44-plus effort in the prelims would have secured an automatic spot as the runnerup.
Harris was glad he changed his mind.
“I thought he still had 45 feet in him, and he really hadn’t looked that good yet in the prelim jumps,” Harris said. “So I decided to let him keep jumping. Both he and Matt (Caines, 9th at 41-4.75) had personal bests today because they kept their arms up and got those extra inches, like I’ve been telling them to do all season. They both finally hit on all of the phases today.”
“I’ve been saying I’d jump 45 for the longest time, but it felt like I was stuck at 44,” Wilburn said. “I knew that 45 was there, that I just had to get it. But I never expected to jump 46. On that jump I just put my arms out and glided. Most of the time whenever I jump I never remember to put my arms up. In the moment I just didn’t think of it, but I did today.”
Brown, the defending sectional champ, settled for 2nd place in the discus after a frustrating spring in which the junior has been plagued by fouls on a majority of his attempts. Thursday’s best toss of 146 feet, 10 inches was good enough for second behind Prospect’s William Matzek, who topped the field at 157 feet, one-half inch.
In the shotput, Connerly-Bey threw 51-0.25 to beat out Highland Park’s Tucker Thompson (50-8.5) for the automatic qualifying berth. Matzek of Prospect won the title at 53-11.5.
Evanston just missed qualifying in the 400 relay but the foursome of Miles Hampton, Garron, B.J. Bamgbose and Amarteifio only mustered a 3rd place time of 43.03. The qualifying standard was 42.70.
Michelin, who led the Wildkits to a tie for 2nd place in the team standings at last year’s state meet, has his sights set that high again this year.
“I know what we’ve got,” the veteran coach said. “We’ll be in the hunt for something down in Charleston. There are other good teams in the state, but you’ve got to pay attention to Evanston Township High School.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.