College basketball teams aren’t the only ones who try to ignore what the seeds say when March Madness hits.
Evanston senior Aremon Alagheband helped the Wildkits earn their seventh straight title at the Central Suburban League boys invitational indoor track championships by ruling the 400-meter dash Friday night at the Niles West High School fieldhouse.
Alagheband — seeded fifth in the event — and teammate Joshua Hopson provided a key 1-2 finish in the open race, then came back to help apply the clincher in the final race of the day, the 1600-meter relay. The efforts of the two seniors, who one year ago couldn’t even earn spots in the starting varsity lineup indoors, powered the Wildkits to a winning team total of 121 points to 109 for Niles West. New Trier (87), Glenbrook South (82), Maine South (81) and Waukegan (13) followed in order.
Alagheband’s winning time of 54.44 seconds just nosed out teammate Hopson, who was clocked in 54.45. The pair broke open what had been a tight team race, then combined with Ramon Hayes and Carl Klamm for a winning time of 3:36.44 in the 1600 relay.
“I ran a 50-51 in the open 400 outdoors last year, so now I’m getting back into a groove,” said Alagheband, who was slowed by a pulled hamstring at the beginning of the 2014 indoor campaign. “I just knew I had to dig deep tonight. I think I ran a pretty solid race tonight.
“I just sat on top in first place, and after one and a half laps I kicked it in. Josh really pushed me. The time wasn’t what I expected, but it was good enough to win. I’m really proud we got that 1-2 finish. That was great for both of us. And I knew what the seeds said, but there was no way I’d let that define my race tonight.”
“Those were 18 big points coming from those two seniors,” said ETHS head coach Don Michelin. “There’s never a blowout in the Central Suburban League. I have the greatest respect for the other coaches in this conference because they always have their kids prepared to run. We needed every point tonight.
“What Aremon and Josh did in that 400 was the turning point in the meet. They’re really stepping up as seniors, it seems.”
Evanston also counted individual victories from Klamm (1:59.89 in the 800), Malik Banks (5 feet, 10 inches in the high jump) and Maalik Todd (20-11.5 in the long jump), and added a win in the 4-lap relay in 1:16.11 behind Malachi Adams, Ramon Hayes, Todd and freshman Brad Garron.
Klamm made up for an off-kilter start with his traditional sizzling kick, turning it up a notch over the last 100 meters to edge New Trier’s Connor Trapp in the open 800. The Evanston junior was bumped by a Maine South runner just a few strides into the race, but didn’t let the mishap affect him and won the title for the second year in a row.
“I was pushed by that Maine South kid at the start, and I don’t know why,” said a puzzled Klamm. “I wasn’t very happy about that. It definitely surprised me. But none of these races are easy. You always have to put it out there. You can’t just rely on your kick, even if you know you have a good one.
“Tonight I didn’t know if they (the rest of the field) would let me do the work (at the front of the pack), or gun it out and try to beat me that way. Trapp really booked it out, and then with about 400 left I started to go.
“Last season I didn’t know what I could do at the start of the indoor season and then I surprised myself and ran a 1:57 in this meet. This year things are different. I’ve done nothing but endurance training so far, and I haven’t done any speed training. This year, my training is geared toward peaking at State (outdoors).”
Also scoring top six individual finishes for the Wildkits were Todd, 2nd in the triple jump (40-9); Hopson, tied for 2nd in the high jump (5-10); Hayes, 3rd in the 50 low hurdles (7.78) and 3rd in the 55 high hurdles (8.17); Adams, 3rd in the 50 (6.24) and 4th in the 200 (24.23); Babajide Bamgbose, 4th in the 50 low hurdles (7.88); Breton Lowry, 5th in the 3200 (9:59.85) and 6th in the 1600 (4:55.55); Brenden Miller, 5th in the shot put (43-5.25); and Elliott Grant, 6th in the 55 high hurdles (8.56).
Evanston added a 3rd place effort in the 3200 relay as the unit of Spencer Eanes, Doug Brochman, Samuel Bergman and Collin Watson was clocked in 9:11.80.
The Wildkits also got a psychological boost from one runner who DIDN’T score. Junior Reggie Murphy failed to advance out of the preliminaries in the 50-meter dash, but survived his first competitive test without any pain after undergoing surgery for a torn ACL in his knee back in October.
“My knee held up and it wasn’t an issue for me tonight,” Murphy said. “I still hated to lose after winning this two years in a row. But I’ve only been back training for three weeks, so it would have been naïve to think I’d whup Hader (eventual champ John Hader of Maine South) in my first race back. Maybe I was just a little nervous and maybe I just wasn’t as physically strong as I need to be at this point.
“I think having had surgery in October, this is a pretty fast recovery. I worked pretty hard in the pool (rehabilitating the injury) and all the trainers have really helped me a lot. I’m planning to win the 100 — and the 200 — when we get outdoors.”
“I just wanted Reggie to feel confident about himself tonight. Now he just needs to get his reps in,” Michelin added. “His feelings are hurt right now, so now he has to lick his wounds and be who he’s supposed to be when we get outdoors.”