There have not been many occasions during his high school track career at Evanston that Malachi Adams has heard his name mentioned in the same sentence as legendary ETHS sprinters Howard Jones and Robert Simmons.
But Malachi saved his best for May 30 at the Illinois High School Association state track and field finals at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
Two sizzling relay legs by the Evanston senior helped the Wildkits blaze their way to a pair of relay titles and a tie for second place in the Class 3A team standings. The Wildkits tied Neuqua Valley for runner-up honors with 37 points, with Edwardsville earning the team crown by piling up 55 points on a rain-soaked afternoon that included a delay of more than two hours in the meet schedule due to bad weather.
Evanston captured relay titles in the 400-meter race in 41.68 seconds and in the 800 meters, which clocked in at a school record 1:26.81. ETHS junior Roland Amarteifio contributed a pair of top six finishes in the two hurdle races, Carl Klamm ran ninth in the open 400, and the Wildkits clinched a team trophy with a third place effort in the 1600 relay.
It all added up to Evanston’s best day on the blue oval at Eastern since 1994, when they also finished second. And all it took was two runs-for-the-ages by Malachi.
The wispy senior turned in a Jones-type split with a 9.75 leg in the shorter race, combining with Reggie Murphy, Brad Garron and Carl Klamm to record Evanston’s first state championship ever in that race.
In the 800, he was running fourth on the anchor leg when he got the baton, then turned on the jets with a closing surge of 21.07 to pass runners from Dunbar, Plainfield East, and Plainfield North. Malachi’s effort was so strong that he actually pulled away from the field and won going away, then joined teammates Reggie Murphy, Brad Garron and Marcus Starks on the award stand for his second gold medal of the day.
“Malachi was in the category with Jones and Simmons today, no doubt about it,” said a proud ETHS head track coach Don Michelin, referring to two ETHS track legends from the 1990s. “That sucker was money for us today. He really blistered it. He’s a guy who loves the sport and really loves to compete.”
“It feels great to be a state champion,” said Malachi, who will compete at Western Illinois next year. “I was in a good position when I got the stick [from Brad Garron] in the 400, but I didn’t know it would be that great a position. We thought this was possible after the sectional. We knew if we worked out the kinks, we’d be state champions.
“In the 800, I just had to win it. We came here strictly to win state championships, and I wasn’t going to let my coach down. I was really determined to win it. We knew we’d have to run faster than we did on the first day (1:27.06 in the preliminaries) because everyone else would be faster, too.”
Evanston’s relay success was triggered by Coach Michelin’s mid-season move that added Carl Klamm to the mix in the 400 while the senior standout sacrificed any remaining individual career goals in the open 800. But it took more than talent to establish that success, as both Carl and the runner he replaced, Marcus Starks, embraced the changes suggested by their coach rather than let their own egos get in the way. That’s the type of unselfishness that the longtime coach will always remember.
“Those guys put the team first, just like you’re supposed to do,” Coach Michelin said. “With Carl, you just want to put your four best guys together, and to be honest I probably should have done it sooner. It goes back to what I saw down in Springfield [Southeast Invitational in April], where we had to come from behind to win. I thought we can do better than this, so we revamped it. Carl’s the best finisher we have, and he showed today that it was the right move.
“He embraced the idea because he’s a team guy. Marcus is a team guy, too. He understood that the change was best for the team. But he also fought to keep that spot on the 4 x 200. He monitored everyone’s splits because he wasn’t going to let that opportunity slip away.”
“I’m glad he put me on that  relay so I could perform for our school,” Carl said. “I’d have never put myself on there, but Coach knows what’s best. Running the 800 is very, very hard mentally, and I can’t say now that I’m upset about being pulled out of it. It just takes so much out of you. I’m just happy I could come out here and compete well and help our team.”
“Once I knew this was my place on the team, I embraced it,” Marcus added. “Coming off of that 4 x 100 was tough for me, because I’m a competitor. But this is what’s best for the team, and this is what team is. Today I was confident that I had put myself in the right position, and we all knew we had to run faster than we did yesterday.”
Evanston’s two relay titles concluded a season in which the Kits never lost a 400 race, no matter which lineup Coach Michelin used. And he took a different approach this year with what he called “some serious stick work” once the team arrived in Charleston prior to the meet.
“When things aren’t working [a lack of relay success for a long stretch at State] you change it up. So we changed it up,” he pointed out. “We came down here, and instead of just checking out the track and walking around, we did some serious work with the sticks [batons]. When you have a veteran group like this, they understand what side of the lane you have to be on, what to do with the incoming man and outcoming man.
“Today it paid off. That was stick work at the highest level. That was the best stick work I saw all year.”
Roland Amarteifio, a junior, ran fifth in the 100-meter high hurdles in 14.65. He owned the best preliminary time in the 300 hurdles coming into Saturday’s competition but settled for sixth place in 38.49 in a fast field led by Chris Douglas of Deerfield, who ruled in 37.45.
Roland actually ran faster Saturday [38.49] than he did on Friday [38.62] and his time was only .04 off the school record set by Duane Stone back in 1998. Roland replaced senior Ryan Christie on the leadoff leg of the 1600 relay on Saturday, teaming up with Brad Garron, Trinton Jones and Carl Klamm for a third place time of 3:17 flat.
Carl never got untracked in his bid in the open 400. He clocked in 49.25, but his single point in that race proved crucial in the team standings.
Fourth place finisher Plainfield Central totaled 36 points but left the meet without a trophy.
“It’s good to get back to this level as a team,” Coach Michelin said. “The last couple of years we haven’t been able to put it together at State even though we’d win the CSL [Central Suburban League] and sectional. When we’d get here, we’d have a tendency to level off and just run the same times.
“We never rose up to that superstar level before today. It takes a special group of guys to do that, and this year when we came down to the Big Show, we were better than good.”