Most of the runners, throwers and jumpers competing at the Class 3A Illinois High School Association Loyola Academy Sectional track meet Thursday were aiming for personal records as more realistic for most than actual state qualifying berths.
That’s what made Morgan Brown’s accomplishment so remarkable.
The Evanston sophomore uncorked PR throws on back-to-back-to-back-to-back attempts and scored an unexpected victory in the discus with a best of 160 feet, 8 inches.
Brown’s performance was just one of the highlights for an Evanston team that dazzled the competition. The Wildkits repeated as team champions with 118 points to 67 for runnerup Hersey in the 16-team field, and set the state qualifying pace for next weekend’s IHSA finals at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, advancing 9 individuals and 3 relay teams.
The Kits swept to first place finishes in 3 relays — the 400-meter, 800-meter and 1600-meter — and broke school and stadium records in the 400 as the team of Reggie Murphy, Brad Garron, Malachi Adams and Carl Klamm combined for a winning time of 41.94 seconds.
Adams added individual wins in the open 100 (10.95) and 200 (21.90), and Klamm dominated the 400 field with a first-place effort of 48.22. Also qualifying for State were Roland Amarteifio, 2nd in the 110 hurdles (14.32) and 2nd in the 300 intermediate hurdles (39.57); Murphy, 2nd in the 100 (11.07); Marcus Starks, 2nd in the 200 (22.32); and Trinton Jones, 3rd in the 800 after beating the established IHSA state qualifying standard with a PR of 1:55.89.
Brown stole the spotlight from the runners, becoming the first sophomore thrower from ETHS in at least 30 years to reach the IHSA two-day finals, according to veteran assistant coach George Woolridge.
And he believes the best is yet to come for Brown, who last year set the school freshman record at 137 feet.
“We’ve been working the last two weeks on his orbit. He didn’t get it perfect today, but he did get around quicker in the circle,” Woolridge pointed out. “That (160) is the kind of throw you really want when you’re getting ready for the state meet. He also broke our sophomore record (148 feet by Alex Thomas) today.
“I’m not surprised, because Mo is such a competitor and he’ll give you whatever you ask for. I’m very proud of him. All of our throwers (shot put and discus) PR’d today, and this is when you want to be peaking.”
“It really feels good,” Brown said. “To be honest, I really thought this was going to be a rough day for me. When I woke up today I really felt I wasn’t in the right mood (to compete), but I managed to pull through. I did a lot more stretching, and when I got into the circle, I just cleared my mind and let my technique talk for itself.”
Brown’s best throw in the prelims was 141, then 158, and he rose to the occasion again in the finals at 160-8.
“This is always a real good sectional, but keep in mind that it’s a qualifying meet, too,” said Evanston head coach Don Michelin. “I think we’ll have lots of opportunities to score some points at State next week. I’ve been saying all year that this is our year.”
If the Wildkits can thrust themselves into the battle for a state trophy — the top three teams earn hardware in Charleston — it’s likely their relay teams will carry most of that load.
Michelin’s decision last month to insert Klamm into the short relay picture continues to pay dividends. Evanston’s time of 41.94 in the 400 relay wiped out the previous mark of 41.99 set in 1998 and Thursday’s race wasn’t perfect, according to the coach.
“Relays is one of the things we’ve always done well at Evanston, boys and girls, and today we beat out a team (from 1998) that finished 4th in the state,” Michelin pointed out. “The best thing is that we can still improve on it. Carl got out a little late and Reggie missed the handoff the first time, so we can do better. We’ve been dancing around that record for a couple of weeks now, and we finally got it.”
“Of course, I’m very excited about that record,” said Adams, who ran the third leg of the race. “I appreciate it. It tells us we’ve been doing some tremendous things this year, and for us to take down that record is something special.”
That record was also a stadium mark at a facility that has hosted several Chicago Catholic League and sectional competitions, bettering the record of 42.19 by another Evanston team in 2010.
The unit of Murphy, Garron, Starks and Adams just missed on a stadium record in the 800 relay, ruling in 1:27.77, and the Kits took down the stadium record in the 1600 relay behind Ryan Christie, Garron, Jones and Klamm, posting a winning time of 3:18.17.
In that race, Garron recorded a PR split of 48.02 and Klamm was even quicker at 48 flat, even though he was running by himself by the time he grabbed the baton.
Amarteifio, a talented junior, was frustrated after twice losing close races to Deerfield senior Chris Douglas. He still became the first ETHS hurdler to qualify for State in both events in the same year since Derrick Hayes back in 2002.
Douglas leaned in for the 110 title, winning by a margin of 14.29 to Amarteifio’s season best of 14.32. The margin of victory was larger in the longer race, 38.72 to 39.57. Christie placed 3rd in the 300 race in 40.11, just off the qualifying mark of 39.84.
“We’ve had a lot of great hurdlers here at Evanston, so I’m just glad to be able to represent my team and the Evanston community at State,” said Amarteifio. “Last year I had a lot of trouble in the 300 with stutter steps, but the coaches have pushed me through and they’ve let me know I could be one of the best if I could get past that.
“If I have a good beginning of the race and just let the hurdles come to me, that’s what helped me today. I had a great start in the 110s and I couldn’t see anybody around me after the first four hurdles in my peripheral vision. But that guy from Deerfield got on my shoulder and he was stronger than I was. It is a little upsetting to be so close and not win.”
“I didn’t feel like he contributed as much in the intermediates as he did in the short hurdle race,” noted Michelin. “He kinda fell asleep, then gathered himself on the straightaway in the 300. I think Roland will be in the hunt next week. He doesn’t take losing well.”