Abrielle Artley doesn’t consider herself a morning person and would rather not run her hurdles races in the rain, either.

But the Evanston Township High School senior didn’t have much choice Saturday because the high school portion of her track career is rapidly coming to a close.

Abrielle Artley (center) hurdles to victory in a 2022 race. Credit: Tameeka McFarlane

Artley captured titles in both the 100 meter and 300 meter hurdle races Saturday at the rain-plagued Palatine Relays to pace the Wildkits in their final tuneup before postseason competition starts next week. Dawson Wright (shot put) and Kai Strickland (triple jump) also scored individual wins for ETHS at the 20-team coed invitational.

Sophomore Stella Davis added a second-place finish in the 3200-meter race with a personal best time of 11 minutes, 5.94 seconds.

Saturday marked the 90th anniversary of the meet hosted by Palatine and there’s no question that meet officials do things differently there. It’s probably the only high school invitational in the entire country where the 300 hurdles – typically conducted near the end of every dual meet, invite or state finals – begins at 9 a.m.

The show goes on

Evanston head coach Fenny Gunter has held hurdlers out of that race at Palatine in the past, since it’s not a part of their normal routine to run that early. But the fact that bad weather this spring has wiped out most of the scheduled weekend invites for the Wildkits – and add the fact that Artley has missed time with a sore knee – and the show had to go on for the University of Nebraska-bound hurdler.

In fact, Saturday marked only her second competition outdoors so far. She didn’t actually line up for a hurdles race until last Thursday at St. Rita because of a tight patella in her knee, yet has still turned in times under the established state qualifying standards in both races.

At Palatine, Artley won the 300 hurdles in 44.42 seconds – a second and a half faster than runner-up Tori Robinson-Thomas of Proviso East – before the rains came, then sailed to victory in a drizzle in the 100 hurdles in 15.17.

“This is the only meet we’ve ever gone to [including out-of-state competitions] where they run that race that early,” Gunter pointed out. “If it was just a running event, not a technical event, she probably wouldn’t have run it. But you need to put the time in and Abrielle had to race to get in shape.

“I’m glad people were able to accommodate her Thursday [Artley was the only ETHS competitor who made the trip to St. Rita] and our [assistant] coaches are doing a good job of bringing her along.”

“I think I’m back on the right track,” Artley said. “I’m not a morning person, but I was willing to adapt today. I just had to focus and do what I do. I just had to remember my technique and apply it to the race. After last year, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected and learned to run through difficult conditions like this. I just came in with the attitude to do what I can do.

“I haven’t really had enough races yet, but with my times, I think I’m in a good place now. I’m comfortable, I’m in a good spot.”

Conditions are less than ideal

Classmates Wright and Strickland are also in a good spot. In less than ideal conditions – Gunter scratched his throwers out of the discus to avoid potential injuries – Wright surpassed the IHSA state qualifying standard with a winning toss of 11.82 meters.

Strickland edged closer to the qualifying mark in the triple jump at 10.78, a personal best.

“Like the others, Dawson hasn’t been able to get a lot of meets in for a new event for her,” Gunter pointed out. “She did throw state qualifying a couple of times indoors, but it’s another thing to do it outside in the elements. And she had to adjust from a rubber shot [used indoors] to steel [outdoors] too.

“Kai finally made up her mind to try an individual event this year and I wish we had another year to work with her. She’s done a good job working with Coach [Michelle] Burke even though this was only her second meet outdoors too.”

Evanston will compete at the Central Suburban League South division meet Thursday at Maine South and Davis, in her first year competing in track, will take another step closer to helping the ETHS coaching staff determine what distance offers her the best chance to advance to State out of the sectional.

Compete in 2 events?

She’ll compete in the 800 at the conference meet and hopes to talk the coaching staff into letting her attempt a “double,” perhaps the 1600 and the 800, in the state series. But Gunter and assistant coach Jesse Sibert will likely steer her toward just the 1600 in a state loaded with distance standouts.

“Today was a pretty good time for me,” said Davis, who lost out to Barrington’s Abby Lewis (11:04.47) in the final 20 meters of the race Saturday. “Today was just to work on my strength and try to maintain my speed. It was surprising how good I felt. I felt so good that I just decided to pass the York girls on like the second lap. I just got out-kicked at the end.

“Over the next two weeks I’ll drop my mileage and focus on speed workouts. I’m excited to work on getting faster. If I can get a PR [personal record] in the 800, and maybe get under 2:20 at the conference meet, then maybe I can talk the coaches into letting me double. I haven’t really talked with them about that yet. Trying to double in the 2 mile and the mile would be a lot, but I think I can run the mile and 800 [in the same meet].”

Not gonna happen, according to Gunter.

“We don’t want to put a young lady with a lot of promise in position to have some bad moments at the sectional,” Gunter said. “She’ll probably just run the mile [1600]. There are girls at the sectional who will run 2:13 [in the open 800] and Stella’s not a burner like that. We want her to finish up this season on a good note.

“Every day is a brand new experience for Stella and she learns a little more. First, we just want to get her downstate, and I think she has as good a chance to qualify as anybody.”

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