Miles Granjean and Abrielle Artley didn’t back down against some of the state’s most elite runners on Saturday, March 25, at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington.
The two Evanston seniors captured individual titles – in the 60-meter hurdles and 400-meter dash, respectively – to cap their indoor track seasons at the Illinois Prep Top Times Class 3A meet.
Only the best competitors in each event statewide earn an invitation to what is regarded as the unofficial indoor state finals. With some exceptions, the event serves as a preview in March for what will take place on the final weekend of the outdoor season at the Illinois High School Association state meet.
There’s a long way to go for both Granjean and Artley to get to that point. But Saturday’s performances showed they are on track for a strong finish to their high school careers.
In some ways, Granjean’s career is just getting started. He only joined the track program last year as a junior, started practicing with hurdles this past August, and made a name for himself Saturday with a sizzling showing in the 60-meter hurdles.
After winning his qualifying heat in 8.08 seconds – wowing the crowd and opponents who wondered where this guy from ETHS came from – he came back to claim the title by posting a winning time of 8.11 seconds. Chris Rodriguez of Niles West was a distant second at 8.27.
Granjean eclipsed his previous best time in both of those races. Another Evanston hurdler, senior Evan Siegel, posted a qualifying time that was also a personal best – 8.65 – but didn’t advance to the eight-man final heat.
“I’m really stoked! It feels great to be first going up against the best competition in the state,” said Granjean. “Having that kind of competition, and being able to excel through it, gives me a taste of what state [outdoors] could be like. I dipped my foot in the water – now I know what it’s like.
“I just focused on getting to the finish line. I really wanted to run a sub-8 [seconds] today, but I can’t be mad about that. Winning here is a very good achievement for me. And I’m excited about going outdoors [to longer races in the highs and intermediates]. The back end of the race was the best part for me when I started working on this in August, and since then I’ve been working more on getting fast starts.
“But I know there’s no meet like the state finals. It’s two-day meet with the whole stadium watching you. This is similar, just not the same. This was just a taste.”
Evanston head coach Don Michelin and assistant coach Kevin Caines, who works closely with the hurdlers, both enjoyed sharing that taste.
Michelin couldn’t resist comparing his newly discovered standout to former ETHS state champion Kalil Johnson, now competing for the University of Iowa.
“I just want him to win, and keep on winning. He likes challenges, so now he can go get Kalil – or be better,” Michelin said. “What gives credence to the comparison is what Miles has accomplished so far. Kalil was never a Prep Top Times champion because of COVID. I watch Miles’ work ethic every day. His good discipline leads to good work habits and that leads to consistency. This means a lot to him, and if he continues to do that, there are bigger championships in front of him.”
“There are other good hurdlers out there, but Miles put himself on top today,” added Caines. “Miles is a great competitor. He’s strong, he’s fast, he’s confident, and I think the 300s will be a great race for him once he goes outdoors. He started out as a good long sprinter and that will help him in that race when others start to fade at the end and lose their technique.
“He still has a way to go. He hit at least three hurdles today [in the finals] and I think he skimmed another. But he’s such a competitor that he was still putting more space on the field [creating separation] at the end of the race. He went undefeated all season and both races today were under his PR [personal record]. We’ll take that.”
Artley was one of three ETHS representatives on the girls side, along with sophomore Stella Davis (fifth in the 1600-run) and senior Dawson Wright (10th in the shotput). She bounced back from failing to qualify for the finals in the 60 hurdles to a record performance in winning the open 400 in 56.62 seconds.
That effort wiped out the previous school indoor record of 56.80 set by Parker English in 2014. Ironically, Artley might not run that race again in a big meet because her focus will be on the hurdles races – and perhaps the 4 x 400 relay – when the scene shifts outdoors next week.
Artley finished third in the hurdles at Prep Top Times as a junior, but couldn’t put her best race together in the prelims Saturday and her time of 9.43 was just 10th fastest in the field. She missed out on advancing to the finals by .09 seconds.
She more than made up for that in the 400 race, dashing to the front and whipping a fast field. Runner-up Angela Alozie of Homewood-Flossmoor was clocked in 57.16 and only offered a minor challenge that Artley easily beat back.
“The hurdles are a really technical event and they can be very challenging,” Artley said. “I just knew that no matter what happened there, I had to focus on my next event. Yes, I was disappointed. But I know my ability in both races and I just had to trust in God and believe in that ability to bring me through.
“I am surprised I got that record. Getting a personal best was the most important thing, more important than the place I get. I didn’t stay aggressive enough in the hurdles, so in the 400 I got out really hard because I wanted to push myself and get to the cut-in [lane] in first place.”
That meant that the senior standout followed the race plan to perfection, according to ETHS assistant coach (and her proud mother) Tranquil Wilson.
“This is her first year running the 400 indoors and getting that record is huge. She did a great job!” Wilson exclaimed. “She did what she needed to do to win the race. She got to the cut-in first and she just kept going.
“After the hurdles I told her I knew she was upset and that she should take it out on that 400 race. She did exactly that! She’s self-motivated, and she knew what she had to do. She executed well today.”
Finally faced with some elite competition of her own, Davis delivered another personal best effort Saturday, lowering her previous best time a full 3 seconds down to 5:00.46. The four runners who finished in front of her all were clocked under 4:58, including the winner, Anna Harden of Hersey in 4:52.83.
Runner-up in the race was the defending Class 3A 3200-meter and state cross country champion Grace Schager of Glenbard North.
“I wanted to break 5 minutes today and I was right there,” noted Davis. “I’m pretty happy with my race. I went out pretty fast and my legs were burning on about the fifth lap [out of 8]. I tried to keep up the pace, but I couldn’t.
“I was scared going into the race – the state champ in cross country was in there – but mostly I was excited to run against such good competition. I know that the other girls who ran under 5 [minutes] all picked it up after the halfway point of the race, so maybe I should change my strategy a little.”
“She stood up tall after a long day, and she’s only going to get better,” said assistant coach Tameeka MacFarlane. “When you have competition like that, it forces you to go faster. I’m really proud of her. To be in the top five in this state is amazing.”
In the shot, Wright couldn’t get untracked and settled for a best toss of 11.66 meters. Reese Garland of Oak Park-River Forest topped the field at 13.05.
While that trio of ETHS girls represented the Orange and Blue in Bloomington, head coach Fenny Gunter brought the rest of his squad to the Chicago Public Schools Invitational meet.
Evanston’s top finishers there included senior Kai Strickland, who won the triple jump at 10.63 meters and placed fifth in the 200-meter dash in 27.77; sophomore Esther Mueller, third in the 400 at 1:02.71; junior Ava Russell, fourth in the shotput at 10.40; and sophomore Hunter Vandergriff, sixth in the 200 (27.82).
My sincere congratulations to all these fine athletes and to their incredible efforts and accomplishments.
It’s a great day to be a Wildkit!