Odds are that the rest of the sprinters in the Central Suburban League South division won’t be sorry to see the Class of 2015 graduate from Evanston Township High School.
They’ve seen too much of Reggie Murphy over the past four years.
The Evanston senior completed an unprecedented four-peat in the 100-meter dash Friday at Glenbrook South and helped the Wildkits reclaim the team championship they lost a year ago on their home track.
Coach Don Michelin’s squad chalked up a decisive victory in the team standings with 175 points, scoring 11 first-place finishes overall and dominating a field that also included Maine South (104), New Trier (88), Glenbrook South (79.5), defending champion Niles West (65.5) and Waukegan (41).
Double winners Roland Amarteifio ( 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles) and Brad Garron (400, 200) also piled up the points and Murphy combined with Garron, Malachi Adams and Carl Klamm to set a conference record in the 400 relay. Their 42.08 clocking broke the mark of 42.2 shared by Evanston (1984) and Waukegan (1992).
Murphy’s fourth straight title in the 100 marks the first time in league history that any individual has accomplished that feat in a single event. And the soft-spoken ETHS senior did it the hard way, after undergoing knee surgery midway through his high school track career and losing the explosiveness that made him one of the top sprinters in his age group nationally in his early teens.
Murphy hasn’t exactly been on cruise control for his senior season, either. Three straight losses at the end of the indoor season forced him to regain his focus and take aim on a record that can never be broken — only matched.
“Coach Michelin told me winning the 100 like that was something he’d never done, something (fabled sprinter) Howard Jones had never done. So winning this again means a lot to me,” Murphy said. “There have been some obstacles for me — especially this year — and to come back and win it like this was really important to me. If you can put yourself in that category, that’s something I’m very proud of.”
Murphy edged teammate Adams at the finish line by a margin of 10.96 seconds to 11.00.
“Malachi almost got me today,” Murphy admitted. “It was tough for me when he beat me indoors during that rough stretch I had, because I’d never lost 3 weeks in a row like that (Phillips Invitational, CSL South Invitational, Prep Top Times). But to Malachi’s credit, he didn’t rub it in my face. It did give me some motivation for outdoors, but it was also very helpful to have someone to push you every day like Malachi did.”
“What did guys like Reggie and Carl Klamm mean to this program? They put the program on their backs and brought us to this level,” said Michelin after accepting the first place plaque. “I’ve been waiting for this for 365 days. Not a day has gone by when I didn’t think about what it would take to get this done this year. It’s a great feeling to be responsible for a great group of guys like this. And our assistant coaches do such a great job, too.
“Reggie is just so gifted and when he came in here and won as a freshman, that said a lot about him. And after that surgery he had it’s supposed to take 3 years to get your explosiveness back, and he’s only 2 years in right now. Next year he’ll get that explosiveness back, so he’s not done yet.
“Brad Garron is another guy with top end speed and he and Reggie and Malachi and Carl all train together every day. We have some knock-down, drag-out timed runs in practice with this group, believe me. And it makes a huge difference for all of them.”
Michelin pointed out that Howard Jones, who dominated the state sprint scene in the early 1970s, competed as a 16-year-old freshman at ETHS and was too old and ineligible to run as a senior under Illinois High School Association rules at that time.
“So now, Reggie’s in the conversation all by himself,” said the veteran coach. “He’s such a humble guy and he’s so meek and mild — until they say ‘On Your Mark!’ “
Garron likely earned a spot on Evanston’s 1600 relay team for sectional and State competition in upcoming weeks after hitting 49 seconds for the second week in a row. He was clocked in 49.51 Thursday, then came back to beat Adams with a final lunge in the 200, 22.42 to 22.44 in that photo finish.
In the hurdles, Amarteifio wasn’t really tested. The smooth-striding junior claimed top honors in the 110 high hurdles in 14.71 and won the longer race in 40.31 despite knocking down the last hurdle.
Evanston also counted victories from Klamm (1:55.11) in the open 800 and from the 800 (1:29.82) and 1600 (3:25.00) relays. But the real boost came from two unexpected wins in the field events, with two underclassmen scoring upset triumphs.
Morgan Brown’s personal best toss of 149 feet, 4 inches topped the field in the discus — after he entered the competition with a seed of just 130 feet.
And freshman Jonathan Wilburn, who hoped to be the next Reggie Murphy when he first entered ETHS, instead has already made a name for himself as a potential four-time champ like Murphy after capturing the triple jump with a career best performance of 42 feet, 4.5 inches. He won by 6 inches over Niles West’s Jackson Denley, the pre-meet favorite.
“ I feel pretty good about the win,” Wilburn said. “The biggest surprise for me was getting a PR (personal record) on my last jump. I came into Evanston thinking I’d be a sprinter, because I was first in a lot of my races in elementary and middle school in District 65 meets.
“But once the coaches introduced me to the triple jump, I did pretty well at it. I think I’m pretty fast down the runway and that’s one of my strengths. My PR was at 42 early in the year, but then my average went down to about 36. I was pretty disappointed when that happened. I just tried to get more speed and power in my jumps and managed to bring climb back up.”