Calixte rules 300 hurdles at CSL South championships

Sophomore Gabriella Calixte captured the 300-meter hurdle championship and Evanston also ruled the 400-meter relay Friday at the Central Suburban League South division girls track meet held at New Trier.

But it was senior Sasha Gordon who provided the headline for the Wildkits on their way to a 4th place team finish. New Trier repeated as team champion with 147 points, followed in order by Glenbrook South (118), Maine South (96), Evanston (65), Niles West (64) and Niles North (63).

Gordon soared to a personal best of 37 feet, 9.25 inches in the triple jump on her way to a 3rd place finish. The senior’s effort ranked third in the competition overall, but was a foot and a half better than her previous best.

And it’s every indication that the senior is saving her best for last with the sectional and State meets looming over the next two weeks.

“There’s no doubt that Sasha was the highlight of the meet for us,” said ETHS head coach Fenton Gunter. “With all that she’s been through with injuries, and this and that, and she even missed a couple of days of practice this week because she was sick.

“Sasha’s been a real asset to our program. The other jumpers really listen to her and it’s just like having another coach around for them. It’s so great for her to have some success because of the way she’s hung in there and worked so hard.”

Gunter’s squad only had varsity entries in 8 of the 18 events in the competition, which was delayed one day by inclement weather. The Kit coaching staff wanted to make sure no individual athlete was over-worked, considering that the Kits also had a meet scheduled Saturday in Michigan.  

Gordon missed out on a runnerup finish by just a fraction of an inch, as New Trier’s Sydney Kunkler posted a best jump of 37-9.5. GBS sophomore Sydney Willits won the title at 37-11. But Gordon was only seeded 6th in the field before exceeding all expectations.

She fouled on her first preliminary attempt, turned in a season best 35-9 on her second try, and then went 2 feet beyond that to advance to the finals.

“I don’t really know what happened today,” Gordon said. “I do know I took my time warming up and stretching when I got here. I didn’t rush my warmup, and that helped. I fouled on my first jump and I told Mickey (assistant coach Michelle Burke) that it was because I was really feeling it. I really surprised myself today.

“My phases were all good today. I know my step (second phase) is my strongest, and today I held it as long as I could and just focused on the board. There’s always been something (among the phases) that just wasn’t there before and I never had it all together. Today, I put it all together and achieved something I’m really proud of. It took me all year to produce this --- and I need to do it again next week (at the sectional) when it really counts. At this point in the season, it’s do or die, and I’m not ready for the season to be done yet. I want to go to State.”

Calixte, who enjoyed a breakout meet in last year’s championships as a freshman with two runnerup finishes in the sprints, claimed her first title by dominating the 300 hurdles with a winning time of 47.22 seconds, easily beating Tiffany Chin of Niles West (49.95) and ETHS teammate Chassa Pratt (49.98).

Not bad for someone who is just learning how to compete in the longer hurdle race. Friday marked only the 5th time she’s competed in the 300 hurdles and Gunter’s glad the coaching staff was able to point her in that direction.

“We wanted to find an individual event for her and we thought the hurdles would be a good fit,” said the veteran coach. “Gabriella’s not a short sprinter (100, 200), she’s a long sprinter. She tried the short hurdles  indoors but she had some back and hip problems, and that really didn’t work out for her.

“We pulled her of the 4 x 200 relay so she could focus on the hurdles and she’s still a work in progress. Today wasn’t her best time (she was seeded first at 45.51) and we’re still trying to get her to be more aggressive on the (final) straightaway. But she’s just a sophomore and we haven’t asked many of our good girls in the past to run the 300 until they were juniors or seniors, and that puts her ahead of them at her age.”

Evanston’s other win came in the 400 relay, in 49.91, but that could be the last time the unit of freshman Destonae Clark, freshman Rikki Gray, Gordon and junior Ariel Logan line up for that particular race. Gunter is still sorting out his relay lineups and thinks an all-freshman lineup could produce better results in the 4 x 100, even in the postseason.

“Those freshmen (Clark, Gray, Jasmine Wright, Jacklynn Okreke) ran faster (49.6) at the (CSL) freshman invitational a couple of weeks ago, so we’ll probably run them at the sectional,” he said. “They’re still learning, and they’ll have to deal with Highland Park and probably Niles North next week at the sectional.”

Clark contributed a 2nd place finish in the 100 dash in 12.88, even though she was in the slow heat. Also scoring top 5 finishes were Gray, 4th in the 400 in 1:01.65; Abby Osterlund, 4th in the 800 in 2:22.63; and Alliyah Jones, 4th in the triple jump at 36-3.25, a season best.

Evanston added a runnerup performance in the 800 relay as the foursome of Clark, Okreke, Logan and Jones was clocked in 1:47.97.

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