When Parker English twisted her ankle slightly en route to winning the long jump Saturday, Evanston’s chances for repeating as team girls champion at the Holt Invitational didn’t look good.
But bolstered by hurdler Remy Amarteifio’s two unexpected victories, the Wildkits piled up 130 points and earned the team crown for the third straight year in the 12-team meet at Wentzville, Mo. Another Illinois power, Class 2A Cahokia, took second with 119 points.
Head coach Fenton Gunter’s team probably couldn’t have asked for a better outdoor debut, especially considering that it was the first “big meet” test for most of his runners and jumpers. And finding out that they were capable of rising to the occasion on a day where English wasn’t available for a maximum four events certainly helped the young Wildkits overcome a mental hurdle.
“She twisted her ankle a little bit in the long jump (winning with a best effort of 17 feet, 5 inches), so we only ran Parker in the 100 after that,” Gunter pointed out. “I think it was a good little wakeup for the rest of them, to find out that they can compete even when she’s not at full strength.
“Normally we’re not concerned about team scores at a meet like this, but with this group of girls we’ve told them that we want them to do well when they have the opportunity to do well. We don’t want them to just be satisfied with participating in these meets.”
English came back to claim top honors in the 100 meters with a winning time of 12.59 seconds. Amarteifio, a junior, ruled both the 100-meter hurdles (16.14) and 300 hurdles (47.44) to help push ETHS over the top in the team standings again.
Evanston also counted a win in the 400 relay, where the team of Tauja Foreman, Miranda Dangerfield, Amari Johnson and Astraya Alexander was clocked in 50.60.
Earning seconds for the Wildkits were Latalee Lawrence in the triple jump (34-7), Alexia Harvey in the 100 hurdles (16.36), Shahara Mitchell in the shot put (38-10.5), Dangerfield in the 100 (13.18), Amarteifio in the 200 (26.88) and the 1600 relay team of Ashley Vesotsky, Crea Taylor, Jania Banks and Takina Taylor in 4:10.46.
How impressed was Gunter by Amarteifio’s performance? She was his choice for team MVP at the meet and earned the honor of accepting the first place team plaque.
Not bad for someone who struggled in both hurdle races last year and wasn’t exactly a prolific point scorer for an ETHS team that finished 10th at the Class 3A state meet a year ago.
Amarteifio came through Saturday despite the fact that the Kits have only practiced outside twice in the past two weeks, a distinct disadvantage for any hurdler, particularly in the longer race.
“After the indoor season we thought maybe Remy was pressing, trying too hard, so we were going to back off the hurdles and just have her run sprints,” Gunter said. “She really didn’t know until the last minute that she was going to run the hurdles.
“Last year she was still learning how to run the hurdles and it was a combination of a lot of hard work and a lot of tears for her. She put in the time with our coaches (Jesse Sibert and former state hurdles champion Tameeka McFarlane) and they let her know what it takes. She’s really been persistent and I think she’s one of the hardest working girls we’ve ever had here. She wants to do so well, and everyone wants to see her have some good fortune because of how hard she’s worked. Her effort has just been outstanding.”
Another plus Saturday was sprinter Alexander, a freshman who anchored the winning 400 relay unit and also helped the Wildkits to a third place finish in the 800 relay (in 1:50.72).
“She’s really come out of nowhere for us,” Gunter praised. “We wanted to see how she’d handle varsity competition, especially running anchor, and she handled herself extremely well. They really didn’t challenge on that last leg. And in the 4 x 200 she was third when she got the stick, and kept two girls off her and helped us finish third.”
English is primed for a big finish to her career after a stellar junior season that included top six state finishes in three individual events (2nd in the open 200, 3rd in the 400, 6th in the long jump) last spring.
“We want to make sure that Parker has the opportunity to be back at State in three individual events again, and put her in position to place as high as she possibly can,” Gunter said. “We’ll have her focus on the 400, 200 and long jump, and we’re still trying to make up our minds about a fourth event for her, either a relay or an individual event. It just depends on where we can maximize her — without killing her (physically).
“We’ve finished in the top 10 at State more times (28) than any other school and that’s something we’ve pointed out to our kids. Can we be in position to get a trophy this year? If we put a couple more of the little pieces together this year, I think we can be one of the three or four teams fighting for that third place trophy. We’ll see just where we fit in.”