A late surge by the Niles West boys track team snapped Evanston’s Central Suburban League South division championship string at 6 in a row Friday at the ETHS track.
But another streak — Reggie Murphy’s in the 100-meter dash — is still alive.
Just 6 months after undergoing knee surgery, the Evanston junior racked up his third straight conference title in the 100 and also helped the Wildkits to two relay titles.
The bottom line for Evanston entering next week’s Class 3A sectional meet at Loyola Academy? Reggie’s back.
Murphy’s winning effort of 11.03 seconds — his best 100 time this spring — and another personal best effort by high jump champion Maliq Banks overshadowed the fact that the Kits had to settle for second best in the team standings, outscored 151-145 by Niles West. Following in order on a chilly but calm afternoon in Evanston were New Trier (106.5), Maine South (84), Glenbrook South (60.5) and Waukegan (8).
Evanston lost the team title when West’s Jackson Denley scored an upset victory in the 400-meter dash, in a career-best 50.18 seconds. The top two seeds entering the meet, Evanston’s Josh Hopson and Ramon Hayes, placed second and fourth, respectively.
“I guess it had to end sometime after 6 years in a row,” said ETHS head coach Don Michelin with a sigh. “You have to take your hat off to teams like Niles West, Maine South and New Trier. Make 1 or 2 mistakes against them, and you’re in trouble.
“Not going 1-2 in the 400 hurt us, and I thought we should have placed a little higher in the sprints and the hurdles. But Reggie Murphy ran great, so did Carl Klamm, and our relays did extremely well, too.”
Murphy couldn’t contain his excitement as he donned his sweats after combining with Malachi Adams, Marcus Starks and Brad Garron to rule the 800 relay in 1:30.93. Earlier, he teamed up with Hayes, Garron and Malik Todd to take top honors in the 400 relay in 43.28.
“That was great! I really wanted to win that 100 so bad!” Murphy exclaimed. “I ran horrible at Thornton last week and you could tell Coach Michelin was upset with me. Mentally, I just didn’t bring it at all down there.
“Being at home had a lot to do with how well I ran today. I’ve always wanted to be a 4-time (conference) champion by the time I’m through here, so I had to win it this year, too.
“Coach Michelin has been so good helping me with my rehab this year. He comes to my gym class to help me every day and he’s been very patient with me. The rehab (including pool work twice a week to help strengthen his damaged knee) is ongoing and I still need to work on being more explosive. And I’m getting tougher, too, because that’s also something I need to work on. But today was a big day for me mentally after beating a couple of guys (Maine South’s John Hader and Niles West’s Brandon Constantino) who beat me indoors.”
“To get that No. 1 seed in the 100 prelims, and then to shut the door on two guys who beat him before, Reggie showed today that he’s back,” agreed Michelin. “When you run a time like that into a cold wind — you’re back. It’s definitely encouraging for us because he’s a top gun again (after winning the sectional 100 last year). So much of it is confidence, and now that he’s run some good workouts, he’s getting back to where he was.”
Evanston’s other wins on the track came from Klamm, challenged only briefly in the open 800 with a time of 1:54.95, and the 1600 relay unit of Hopson, Hayes, Roland Amarteifio and Klamm. Klamm anchored with a split of 48.6 en route to an overall clocking of 3:22.04, a season best and a full second and a half under the Illinois High School Association state qualifying standard.
Jumpers Banks and Todd scored wins when their respective specialties — the high jump and long jump — were moved indoors to the ETHS fieldhouse. Banks soared 6 feet, 5 inches and matched the state qualifying height. Todd topped the long jump field at 21-4, three inches farther than runnerup Quran Spillman of Niles West.
Banks said the strategy of taking more time in between his jumps helped the senior’s focus on his way to the conference championship. “I get nervous, so I knew I had to take my time, cool down and focus more,” he said. “Today, it was focus and power that did it for me. I just did everything coach told me to do.
“Next week? I’m aiming for 6-7.”
Also scoring top three individual finishes for the Wildkits were Todd, 2nd in the triple jump at 42-6; Elliott Gongora, 3rd in the high jump at 6-1; Garron, 3rd in the 200 in 22.78; Ryan Christie, 3rd in the 300 hurdles in 41.57; Amarteifio, 3rd in the 110 hurdles in 15.80; and Khalladi Taylor, 3rd in the long jump at 20-4.5 and 3rd in the triple jump at 42-1.5.