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Not many track fans outside the Central Suburban League know Brad Garron’s name yet, especially since the Evanston junior is still seeking his first Illinois High School Association state finals berth in an open race.

But after helping carry the burden for the Wildkits in three different relay races at last year’s state finals, Garron is poised to take the next step as one of the state’s top sprinters.

Garron proved he belongs with the state’s elite at Saturday’s Illinois Top Times indoor invitational meet at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, earning a third place finish in the 200 meters with a personal best time of 22.49 seconds.

Garron’s reputation as a sprinter is still a work in progress. He didn’t qualify for the meet’s fastest heat and instead won the No. 3 heat (out of 4), then watched Galesburg star Josh Eiker (meet record 21.58) and Lockport’s Derrius Rogers (22.32) beat him out in a final heat that also included DeKalb’s Antonio Tate, who was disqualified.

Garron’s day in the spotlight is coming.

“I’m very happy with my PR today, but I’m a little bummed that Eiker wasn’t in my heat, because he’d have made me run faster,” the ETHS junior explained. “Sure, it’s important for me to get noticed, but more so the recognition I have that I can compete with them.

“The 200 and 400 are definitely my strongest races but I’m not sure yet which one is best. So far I’ve been mostly focused on the 200.”

That focus could change when the outdoor season begins in a couple of weeks. Evanston head coach Don Michelin may shift Garron out of the 1600 relay and into the open 400, especially since there’s an opportunity in the 400 for Garron to make a run at a state medal.

The heat sheet for Saturday’s meet showed no quarter-milers with times faster than the high 49s and only one runner actually broke 50 seconds in the meet, Lemont’s Chris Thompson. While it’s possible that some of the state’s top 400 contenders just chose not to compete in the unofficial indoor state meet, it’s also possible that the 400 could turn out to be Garron’s best race.

“Right now I’m leaning toward having him in the 4 x 100 (relay), the 200 and 400, and he’ll be in more individual races this year,” Michelin said. “He’s coming off a darned good summer and he’s ready to take the next step. Last year he was the steadiest guy we had on all 3 relays, even though we leaned on the veteran guys in those races and allowed him to develop under the radar.

“That 200 he ran today should race some awareness about him. He’ll work more in the 200 and 400 when we get outdoors, and we’ll worry about the mile relay later in the year, depending on how he develops.”

Garron also ran a 51.5 anchor split for Evanston’s 1600 relay entry Saturday, but the Wildkits were knocked out of contention for a top spot in both the 800 and 1600 relays when senior Roland Amarteifio was injured after tripping over the last hurdle in the 60-meter hurdles midway through the meet.

He spent most of the rest of the night in the emergency room after making a complete somersault on landing on the hard indoor surface at IWU. He suffered a gouge out of his left arm that required 7 stitches, and also fractured a bone in his right hand.

Amarteifio was running a close second to defending state high hurdles champ William Session of Belleville East before the mishap as both runners approached the last hurdle.

“I got a pretty good start to the race and the coaches told me I was running first all the way to the 4th (second to last) hurdle,” Amarteifio recalled after placing 7th overall. “When I got to the last hurdle I saw Session out of the corner of my eye (two lanes to his left) , and when I did that I caught my foot under the hurdle and I just started to tumble. The hurdle actually punctured my arm when I fell — it was a pretty big hole — and I’m just glad that I’m OK.

“I’ve hit hurdles and fallen before, but never had anything more than scrapes or bruises. It’s disappointing because I know I was in the second position (in the race) and I had a chance to get a PR. And I wanted Session to know that I’ll be right there with him at State. I’m running a lot faster this year and my foot speed has really improved.

“It’s a setback, but I’m hoping this will bring me back with an even stronger mindset when we go outdoors. Over the summer I did a lot of work on my sprinting because I know I needed to work on that to become and elite runner, and it’s starting to pay off.”

 “The heartbreaking thing about this is that Roland caused it to happen himself,” Michelin said. “This is a good example for the rest of our guys of how you have to be focused on your own lane and take care of your own business. I feel bad for him because he missed out on a great opportunity tonight.  But in the long run it’s a lesson he can remember.”

With Amarteifio sidelined, Michelin had to call on sophomore triple jumper Jonathan Wilburn as an emergency replacement. Wilburn, who placed 8th in the triple jump with a best effort of 42 feet, 5 inches, combined with Garron (23.15 split), B.J. Bamgbose and Brian Daniels for 7th place in the 800 relay with a time of 1 minute, 33.61 seconds.

The same four runners took 10th in the 1600 relay, in 3:35.10. Bamgbose, Evanston’s other individual qualifier in the hurdles, was eliminated in the prelims with a time of 8.77.