By Dennis Mahoney, ETHS Sports Information
Enyaeva Michelin broke through to earn All-State recognition for the Evanston Township High School girls track program last spring in the 800-meter dash as one of the most improved runners in the State of Illinois.
Enyaeva has not held back ever since then, and the ETHS senior-to-be scored another big breakthrough on Sunday, July 29, at the United States of American Track and Field (USATF) Junior Olympics Nationals held in Lawrence, Kansas.
Enyaeva became just the third female runner in school history to capture a national track championship, ruling the 1500-meter run in a dizzying time of 4 minutes, 32.81 seconds to claim the gold medal. Jahnell Horton won the gold in the Steeple Chase in 2009 at the AAU Junior Olympics. Hall of Fame hurdler Shalina Clarke, as a 12-year-old and an 18-year-old, earned national titles in the long and prestigious history of the program.
Competing in the 17-18 year-old age group, Enyaeva blew away the finals field with a sizzling split of 47.92 seconds over the first 300 meters and won by eight full seconds over runner-up Madison Morasco. She finished in 4:32.81, just six seconds off the national record set by Cecilla Hopp of Connecticut back in 1981 (4:26.39).
And if you ask ETHS Head Coach Fenton Gunter, he will tell you the best is yet to come for the hard-working and focused Enyaeva.
“To have someone go out like that and win a national championship doesn’t happen too often,” Coach Gunter pointed out. “We’ve had other girls who took different routes in the summer, who were All-Americans or finished second or third. But what Enyaeva did is something special. Everything fell into place for her out there. She ran faster in finals than she did in the prelims, and you always want to see that happen.
“When the girls let us do what we do as coaches and hang in there, they take themselves to that elite level. It started while she was working with coach Sibert (assistant coach Jesse Siebert) and quit worrying about what the other runners were doing and just focused on running her splits.
“I think that first 300 she ran [on July 29] killed half of the field, and she was still able to keep the heat on through the first 400. Then when she got to that third 400, she kept pressing the pedal and didn’t settle back like a lot of runners do.”
“It feels really great to win a national championship,” Enyaeva added. “Being able to run like that gives me a huge boost in my confidence. And being able to get in so many races that imitate State will really help me when I come back for my senior year (in both cross country and track). My goal was to run in the 4:20s, but I’m extremely happy and blessed just to win it.”
The Evanston standout posted the fastest prelim time (4:34.97) in only her fourth career attempt at a distance that is usually reserved for international competition. High school distance runners compete at 3200, 1600 and 800 meters.
And with the fastest half-miler in the nation – Samantha Watson of Rochester, N.Y. – opting not to compete at Kansas, the door was open to a gold medal for Enyaeva.
“She’s amazing, the fastest girl in the country, and to be honest winning it without running against her was a little bittersweet,” said Enyaeva. “She’s a phenom and I was really looking forward to running against her.
“Winning this championship is a huge eye-opener for me. It will help me set my goals a little higher now for cross country and for track. I’ll keep trying to improve and see where it takes me.”
“Enyaeva has a chance to be a really good one,” Coach Gunter praised. “She put in the time and the commitment, and when you do that and make that kind of investment, good things will happen. Her ceiling is very high.”