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Even though the Evanston girls track team was the favorite – on paper, at least – to win the conference championship for the first time since 2014, head coach Fenny Gunter didn’t lose sight of the big picture.

So when the weather took a turn for the worse on a rainy Thursday, May 5, he yanked almost all of his varsity competitors out of the Central Suburban League South division championship meet for the second year in a row, rather than have them risk injury less than a week before the Illinois High School Association sectional competition is scheduled.

Senior Olivia Whatley fell short in her bid to repeat as conference shot put champion at the Evanston track, but did earn runner-up honors in both the shot and discus, accounting for most of the points as ETHS finished last in the six-team field with 25 points.

New Trier won the team title with 177 points to 133 for Glenbrook South. The Wildkits entered the competition with the best seed performances in eight events – the 400, 800 and 1600 relays, plus the open 100, 200, 400 and both hurdles races – but didn’t actually compete in any of those races.

Evanston also counted a fourth place finish from senior Lauren Dain with 5:30.38 in the 1600 meters; a fourth from Keira Tu in the high jump at 1.40 meters; and a sixth from Michelle Ogungbemi in the long jump at 4.72 meters.

Whatley couldn’t find the motivation to repeat as the shot champ in miserable throwing conditions, even though it was her last official appearance on her home track. Her best throw of 11.85 meters (about 38 feet, 10 inches) wasn’t enough to challenge the winner, New Trier’s Maeve Kelly, who topped the field at 12.43 meters (about 40′-10″).

The Evanston senior did bounce back with a personal-best toss of 30.30 meters in the discus (approximately 99 feet, 6 inches) but again trailed champ Kelly’s best effort of 35.28.

Evanston assistant coach Alex Thomas said he hopes Whatley will shift into more of an attack mode with her throws when the Kits compete Wednesday at the Deerfield Sectional.

“It’s a big meet, her last home meet, for the conference championship, but for some reason she couldn’t flip on that [competitive] switch today,” said Thomas. “You have to go out there and attack on every single throw at this point. If she corrects some little things, she can still put herself in a good spot for next week.”

“I got a little better as the meet progressed [her best throw in the shot came on her sixth and final attempt], but it happened too late,” Whatley said. “I just need to keep my focus on my technique, and on attacking more.

“It’s all mental for me and today I didn’t attack it the way I should.”

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