Long-time followers of high school track are aware of the fact that the Illinois High School Association is now applying metric standards to field events to qualify for the State finals.
If there are any Evanston fans confused by the math needed to convert feet and inches into meters, there is a table that exists online at the IHSA website just for that purpose.
Or now they have an athlete they could consult, too.
Junior Tim Russell, a newcomer to the sport, continued to flash his potential with a first place finish in the discus throw and a runnerup effort in the shotput Thursday, helping the Wildkits earn their sixth team championship in a row at the Thornton Township Classic Invitational meet in Harvey.
The Wildkits piled up 10 first place finishes and destroyed the field with 246 points to 117 for Brother Rice. Also competing were Thornwood (49.5), Thornridge (48), Rich Township (47.5), and host Thornton (46).
Russell is a math whiz who is currently taking advanced classes at Northwestern University to continue his education in that area. The 6-foot-4, 280-pounder played basketball at ETHS as a freshman but is an up-and-coming prospect in a sport he never tried before this year.
Russell won both the shot and discus in his debut last week at the Kankakee Invitational. His numbers on Thursday added up to a personal best toss in the discus, with a winning throw of 131 feet. He settled for runnerup honors in the shot at 42 feet, 11 inches, trailing only Javaris Ambrose of Thornton at 43-8.5.
Neither performance is close to qualifying for State – yet. But Russell is just getting started.
“He’s a very bright kid,” said ETHS head coach Don Michelin. “I know he played on the freshman B team in basketball. Somebody [on the Evanston staff] brought him in with us and he just found his niche. He fell in love with track. He’s a real gem, and he’ll just get better and better for us.”
Veteran throws coach George Woolridge has had to take a different approach to teaching technique in both events to help Russell make progress on a daily basis.
“He’s so smart in math that I put things in math terms for him,” Coach Woolridge said. “In the shot we talk about using a Bell Curve so he’ll release the throw at 45 degrees, the top of the curve. With the other guys I just say, put it out there!
“We’re still working on getting the spin move [approach in the shotput] down for Tim. First we have to figure out which is best for him, the glide or the spin, but with his body size and wing span, I figure the spin will be better for him in the long run.
“The shot is a four-year project for most throwers because the technique is so complex. The way you have to torque and twist your body, the way you need your hips to lead your upper body into the throw so you can explode then with your legs, none of that is natural. It takes time to learn. Tim still needs to get stronger, too. But when he gets there, everybody ‘s going to know.”
Evanston’s strong showing in the field events also included wins in the high jump and triple jump. Matt Cless matched his personal best with a winning leap of 6 feet, 2 inches in the high jump, while Bernard Jones topped a small field (only three competitors) in the triple jump with a best of 11.68 meters.
On the track, Kalil Johnson sped to wins in both the 110-meter hurdles (14.44 seconds) and 300 hurdles (40.96). Joining him as individual winners were Kevin Thomas, 53.84 in the 400; Dylan Eyler, 2:10.97 in the 800; and Solomon Greene, 4:52.65 in the 1600.
Contributing runnerup performances were Julian Weber in the long jump, Sebastian Cheeks in both the 110 and 300 hurdles, Sam Bennett in the 1600, Cormac Schliesmann in the 800, and Afandi Oraelosi on both the 200 and 400, along with Russell in the shot and Cless in the triple jump.
Evanston claimed first place in the 400 relay (44.28) and 800 relay (1:36.29) and ran second in both the 1600 and 3200.