Even would-be pole vaulters in the Evanston track and field program must participate in the preseason time trials that veteran head coach Don Michelin calls “assessments.”
Michelin’s assessment of Will McMichael is that the Wildkits may have discovered another quarter-miler — and perhaps a missing piece to a potentially dynamic 1600-meter relay lineup.
McMichael accounted for one of Evanston’s 10 individual victories Friday night at the Red Grange Invitational meet held in chilly conditions at Wheaton Warrenville South high school and also added a second place finish to help the Wildkits earn a runnerup finish in the team standings.
Host Wheaton South outscored Evanston 225-221 in the 10-team field at the annual meet that features A, B and C flights for every event for runners, throwers and jumpers. Each team in the 16-team field is allowed to enter three individual competitors per event instead of the usual two.
Evanston’s depth traditionally helps the Kits finish high in the standings in the unique setup, and Friday was no exception. Michelin’s squad piled up 10 firsts, 7 seconds and 7 thirds, including a sweep of the triple jump behind flight winners Jonathan Wilburn (43 feet, 4.25 inches), Matt Caines (42-2.75) and Jamal Perrin (41-0.5).
Brad Garron (22.11 in the A 200-meter dash and 49.60 in the A 400), Wilburn (A triple jump and 20-10 in the C long jump) and freshman Quadre Nicholson (17.43 in the C 110 hurdles and 43.32 in the C 300 hurdles) accounted for a pair of victories apiece. But the most intriguing story emerging at this stage of the season is the progress that McMichael has shown in his first season competing in track.
His buddy from the high school cross country team, Davis Patterson, encouraged him to come out and train with him in the pole vault this spring. That’s when McMichael re-discovered his love for running, and Michelin found his name at the top of the list in various time trials.
“He found us — we didn’t find him,” Michelin admitted after McMichael was clocked in 51.60 in the C 400 and placed second in the C 200 in 24.10, both season best times. “We did assessments for the 600, the 400, the 300, the 200 and he was near the top of every list. We make everyone do those assessments, except for the shot-putters. Then after awhile he came to me and said he didn’t want to do the pole vault any more, that he wanted to be a quarter-miler.
“Now he’s making us look at him for that 4 x 400 relay (along with Garron, Brian Daniels, Logan Singer, the injured Michael Henry, Sam Bergman and Julion Michelin). He’s an amazing guy. He brings the inner heart and toughness that coaches can’t teach. And he’s starting to smooth out (his style) as a runner now.”
McMichael said he was intrigued by the pole vault at first, and as a middle-of-the-pack distance runner during the cross country season, didn’t know where he’d fit on the track.
“I thought the pole vault would be an interesting thing to try, and it was,” he said. “I did OK and it was fine, although I got anxious doing it because it’s so precise and there’s no margin for error. But I knew I had some speed from when I played soccer as a kid, but I didn’t know whether or not I could run the shorter distances. And my motivation to start running again just came out.
“I won a run-off to get on a relay at the Phillips Invitational (indoors) and after that I decided to focus more on my running. It’s worked out pretty well so far.”
Friday, McMichael held off Waubonsie Valley’s Derric Lee by 4-100ths of a second in a race where the top four finishers all broke 52 seconds.
“I was really happy with that 400,” said the Evanston junior. “I was a little surprised when that guy (Lee) came around the corner like that and I thought in my head that I was just going to end up with the silver (medal). He was about 3 meters ahead of me, but I found a little extra energy and I knew that if I kept my form, I could run him down. That’s what I did.”
Senior Christian Nielsen chalked up the other ETHS victory with a winning toss of 129-3 in the C discus throw. He was part of a strong showing by the Wildkits in the field events, also adding a third in the A shotput with a season best throw of 52-5.
Chalking up second place finishes for Evanston were Morgan Brown, 136-8 in the B discus and 48-0.75 in the C shot put; Trey Dawkins, 47-11.75 in the B shot put; Caines, 5-5 in the B high jump; Garron, 11.26 in the A 100; and the 400 relay team of Garron, Daniels, Oluleye Oluwashola and Sacrad Michelin in 43.53.
Contributing third place efforts were Logan Singer, 1:58.24 in the A 800; Julion Michelin, 2:05.87 in the C 800; Daniels, 15.68 in the A 110 hurdles; Kerry Vessall, 16.95 in the B 110 hurdles; Yusuf El-Ashawi, 5-7 in the C high jump; and Gabe Cheeks,20-5 in the B long jump.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.