Individuals who specialize in the field events in high school track and field aren’t always considered the fiercest competitors.
Part of the reason is that their focus is more on personal bests and achieving the established Illinois High School Association state qualifying standards at the sectional meet, regardless of place. In a sense, they’re competing more against themselves and those standards instead of athletes wearing other uniforms.
But Evanston senior Genora Garcia showed off her talent AND her ability to rise to the occasion Thursday at the Niles West Invitational as the Wildkits finished 3rd in the 8-team field with 99 points.
Battling head to head with one of the top throwers in the state, Niles North’s Fiona Kanam, Garcia claimed top honors in the shot put with a personal best throw of 41 feet, 2.25 inches and made a statement with that victory, considering that the two will bump heads again next month at the Class 3A sectional meet.
Garcia’s winning toss came on her final attempt — after a scratch that was out near 40 feet — and she held on to edge Kanam, whose best was 41-0.5. Garcia also earned a runnerup finish in the discus with a throw of 97 feet, 2 inches, another best.
“Genora was given the word last week (by the ETHS coaching staff) about what to do, about responding to a challenge,” said Wildkits’ head coach Fenton Gunter. “Now that she’s out there (at 41 feet) she’s got to stay out there, because she’s going to see good competition every week from here on out. We need her to be consistent.
“Field event people have a different mentality than runners, I think. They can compete against each other and still be friends. Genora has taken a big jump from last year to this year. She’s a late bloomer who’s starting to accept the fact that she can be pretty good if she chooses to be.”
“It’s a good win for me, but I know I have much more left in me,” Garcia said. “I only see her (Kanam) a couple of times within the conference and the sectional, and I feel like I’d like to have competition like this more often.
“But I was really more worried about my own technique today than I was about her. This is the first time I’ve taken all four throws as spin throws and I have to become more comfortable with that. No more power throws (without any spin) or half-spins for me after today. I’ve leaving that all behind. I did get my PR twice today (her other throw that counted was at 38-10), so that was good.”
Gunter either rested several of his front-line racers or limited the number of events they competed in with another invitational on the schedule Saturday in Indianapolis. Niles West won the team title with 120 points, followed by Loyola Academy (112), ETHS (99), Niles North (90), Resurrection (43), Maine West (41), Lincoln Park (39) and Maine East (14).
Senior Remy Amarteifio scored individual wins in both the 300-meter hurdles (season best 46.71 seconds) and the open 100 (12.85). Gabby Watson won the high jump at 5-feet even, and the Wildkits also ruled the 400-meter relay in 50.32 behind the unit of Amarteifio, Alexia Harvey, Summer Mitchell and Tauja Foreman.
Contributing top 6 finishes to Evanston’s point total were Watson, 2nd in the triple jump at 32-9.5; Harvey, 4th in the 100 (13.14) 4th in the 300 hurdles (49.48); Crea Taylor, 3rd in the 800 in 2:32.94; Hannah Hayat, 4th in the 800 in 2:35.36; and Mackkeitha Mason, 6th in the shot put at 32-2.
Evanston placed second in the 800 relay in 1:52.91 and ran third in the 1600 relay in 4:27.60. Gunter and his staff are still searching for the right combinations in the relays — a search that will likely last up until the final two weeks of the season — but were encouraged when leadoff runners Aja Lasley and Foreman were both clocked in the 26-second range for their respective splits in the junior varsity and varsity 800 relay races.
“I think we found out some things today and got a look at some girls we really wanted to take a good look at,” Gunter pointed out. “You never know with young girls like this. If they stay together the next couple of years, once they learn how to compete they might be able to make a little noise.”