When meet officials decided to shift the Thornton Township Classic track invitational to a Friday night for the first time in 30 years — anticipating bad weather on Saturday — they didn’t do defending team champion Evanston any favors.
The Wildkits had to endure a two and one-half hour bus ride in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Illinois 294 and the meet started 20 minutes late upon their arrival.
Late start or not, it didn’t prevent the Kits from getting the jump on their south suburban competition. And triple jumpers Jonathan Wilburn and Matt Caines didn’t show any ill effects at all, as the two sophomores both set personal bests and became the first ETHS jumpers to exceed 40 feet at the same meet in school history.
Wilburn’s winning performance of 44 feet, 11.5 inches was one of 9 first place finishes recorded by the Wildkits as they ran away with the team title. Coach Don Michelin’s squad ruled the 7-team invite with 148 points, followed in order by Homewood-Flossmoor (114), Thornton (89), Brother Rice (61), Rich Central (52), Thornwood (28) and Oak Forest (28).
Brad Garron (21.77 seconds in the 200 meters and 48.72 in the 400) and Roland Amarteifio (14.56 in the 110 hurdles and 38.82 in the 300 hurdles) both accounted for a pair of victories. Adding individual wins to the ETHS point total were Logan Singer, 4:38.60 in the 1600; Joey Eovaldi, 10:56.44 in the 3200; and Christian Nielsen, 48 feet, 9 inches in the shot put.
Evanston also came home first in the 3200 relay behind the foursome of Singer, Sam Bergman, Julion Michelin and Danny Managlia, clocked in 8:20.20.
“It was a total team effort, a great team effort,” said Evanston head coach Don Michelin. “That’s the kind of effort we’re going to need from everyone over the next few weeks.”
Wilburn hopped off the bus and actually increased his own PR on two of the three jumps he attempted. He opened with a 44-9 effort — one inch better than his previous best — scratched on his 2nd attempt, and soared to 44-11.5 to secure the title and a new PR.
“It was so hard for me to focus on the bus because it was so hot and you’re sitting there next to someone sweating,” Wilburn said. “On the ride itself I was thinking I had to prepare for the meet, but I really didn’t start focusing until we got there.
“I actually thought I hit 45 on my second jump, but that’s OK. I finally got my arms above my head on every jump today like Coach (Vernard) Harris has been telling me to. I’ve never thought about doing that much before when I’m in the moment, but it’s something I have to work on.”
Caines’ career best of 40-4.5 — which was good for 5th place Friday — was also a product of the raised arms to help generate power at the beginning of the jump, according to the long-time ETHS assistant coach.
“When you step you have to power up and raise your arms, and that’s something they haven’t been doing,” Harris pointed out. “Jonathan did it indoors, but he’s gotten into some bad habits outdoors. If you don’t get your arms up, it’s like you’re paralyzed and you can’t get any power. So they’ve got to make that more of a habit, because this is the time of year when you want to get into a groove with some good habits.
“I’ve never had two 40-foot jumpers at the same time and it’s really exciting because they’re both sophomores. I’m hoping now that Matt has hit 40 it will boost him up, and I’d love to get both of them Downstate this year.”
Garron’s winning time of 21.77 was another PR and the junior is zeroing in on the school record of 21.30 set by Robert Simmons back in 1993. Originally, a meet official informed the ETHS staff that his time was a sizzling 20.9, causing an uproar in the Evanston camp until the official results were posted.
“When Coach told me that time, I was in disbelief. I didn’t know what to say,” Garron said. “But I did get a PR anyway tonight. The competition made me correct a weakness I have, running on the curve, and tonight was the best I’ve run the curve. I think things should only get better for me now.”
Contributing 2nd place finishes for ETHS were Max Ebeling, 11:32.38 in the 3200; and Jonathan Connerly-Bey, with a best throw of 46-11 in the shot put.