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Evanston’s track team combined quality with quantity and scored an unexpected victory Friday night at the Red Grange Classic invitational meet at Wheaton Warrenville South.
Finishing strong over the last half of the meet — after not even entering competitors in 4 different events — the Wildkits captured nine first-place finishes overall and outscored host Wheaton South 196-190 in the 13-team field.
The lack of points in the pole vault, 1600 meters, 3200 meters and 800 meters didn’t deter Evanston in a meet format in which schools entered three individuals per event and had them compete separately.
A second-place finish in the 1600-meter relay enabled ETHS to beat out third place race finisher Wheaton South and clinched the surprising title for coach Don Michelin’s squad.
“I think this says a lot about the character of our kids,” said Michelin at the conclusion of the four and one-half hour meet. “It’s definitely something for us to build on.”
Freshman Brad Garron was Evanston’s only double winner, in the Class B 200 and Class C 100, and also teamed up with Malik Todd, Reggie Murphy and Malachi Adams to win the 400 relay in 43.48 seconds.
Also scoring wins for the Wildkits were Ramon Hayes, 51.18 in the B 400; Aremon Alagheband, 51.89 in the C 400, a meet class record; Babajide Bamgbose, 43.33 in the C 300 hurdles; Murphy, 23.53 in the C 200; Elliott Gongora, 6-foot-1 in the B high jump; and Josh Hopson, 5-foot-9 in the C high jump.
Garron overcame bad starts to win both of his sprint races, taking top honors in the open 100 in 11.57 and coming back to rule the 200 in 23.00. He served as anchor runner for the 400 relay team and also for the 800 relay unit that placed fourth overall.
The young sprinter has already earned the reputation as a “refuse to lose” type of runner among the ETHS coaching staff. Both of his times in the open races are just off the Illinois High School Association state qualifying standards, but Michelin said it’s more likely he’ll contribute on the relay teams in his first high school post-season.
“I remember watching him at the Ron Risch Invitational (for junior high runners) and he showed the ability to really put it together,” said the Evanston coach. “He was just more determined than the other kids that day. He hates to lose.
“Then at our Kevin Richards Invitational (indoors) he was 50 meters behind a New Trier kid on the 4-lap relay and got him. After that I sure wasn’t going to keep him at the freshman level. He’ll definitely run on our 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 relay teams, but we want to keep the individual pressure off him this year. I think his best event eventually will be the hurdles — or maybe the 400. But if he comes out and runs a 10.9 this year (in the 100), I’ll change my mind about running him in an individual event.”
Garron is the younger brother of former ETHS football star Leonard Garron and also plays football and basketball. He wasn’t sure what to expect in the first major track test he faced Friday night.
“I’m really happy with my performance tonight,” Garron said. “I came into the meet expecting to do well — but not this well. There’s was a lot of pressure on me running anchor, but everybody told me don’t worry, just go out and run. And before that last race you should have seen how goofy I was. I’m better when I’m not so serious.
“As far as the bad starts go, that’s something I have to work on. When I see someone in front of me, that’s my motivation. You just make up for it (a bad start) in another part of the race.”
Earning runnerup individual finishes for the Wildkits were Bamgbose, 16.55 in the C 110 hurdles; Hopson, 50.81 in the A 400; Roland Amarteifio, 41.19 in the B 300 hurdles; and Clayton Daniels, 19 feet, 1.5 inches in the C long jump and 38-9.5 in the C triple jump.
Contributing thirds were Elliott Grant, 16.53 in the B 110 hurdles; Murphy, 11.32 in the A 100; Adams, 22.82 in the A 200; Ryan Christie, 41.17 in the A 300 hurdles; and Maliq Banks, a personal best 6-3 in the A high jump.
Banks only missed one attempt before the bar got to 6-foot-5 and inched closer to that mark, which is the state qualifying height. Now, he’s one motivated senior to earn a trip to Charleston.
“Getting that height was more important than my place tonight,” he said. “I was close to 6-5 tonight. A little more hard work in practice and I’ll be there. Tonight tells me that I have to keep pushing forward, keep working hard.
“I went to the state indoor meet (Prep Top Times invitational) and didn’t do so well, so that motivates me now. I felt like I did everything right tonight. I was focused, and I was calm, I wasn’t nervous. I like to joke around a lot and I get distracted very easily. So it was important that I was focused tonight.”