Johnson and Cless push track to sixth at state

You can’t talk about ETHS’ 2021 track and field season without mentioning Class of 2021 senior and future Iowa Hawkeye Kalil Johnson. Johnson went undefeated last season in the 110m and 300m hurdles and placed first in both of those events at state.

Winning two events at state is something that hasn’t been done for the ETHS track team since 1974, when Joe Stewart won both the 100m and 200m events.

While winning two events alone is impressive, but the specific events Kalil won adds to the significance of the achievement. 

“Undefeated in both hurdles, that’s hard to do. Those are two different events; one is a sprint hurdle event, the other is more of an endurance type of event,” varsity track head coach Donald Michelin explained.

Though Johnson won’t be representing the orange and blue next year, he’ll leave behind an important legacy for the next generation of track stars at ETHS to follow.  “[Johnson’s] one of the best we’ve ever had, but he leaves a blueprint.” Coach Michelin added.“That blueprint is coming to practice, [and working hard.]”

While Johnson may have had the most standout performances last year, senior high jumper Matt Cless also had quite the season himself. Cless went undefeated leading up to state, where he placed third in the high jump and helped ETHS to a sixth place finish. Notably, the team’s only points were scored by Johnson and Cless.

Though the team couldn’t have an indoor winter season like usual, track was still able to utilize Evanston’s field house throughout the late winter and early spring. 

An additional surprising positive that came out of the pandemic for the track team was the ability to go to the weight room three days a week. “Team and coaches were all up there,” Michelin remarked, “Loved it.”

Though ETHS didn’t win conference because of a disqualification in the 4x100m relay, Michelin was proud of the team. “We didn’t win conference, which was kind of a downer, but performed really, really well.” 

Throughout the season, Michelin enjoyed all the meets, “I love them because they all brought something different.”

Next season, Cless will play a part in a big group of seniors that hope to lead Evanston back to another conference championship. “So with [Cless[ being one of our senior leaders who’s been all the way down [state] and had that experience, that’s gonna add to the senior leadership.”

While ETHS track and field will look a lot different next year without Johnson and the rest of the 2021 seniors, the blueprint they left behind will surely play an instrumental role for the track team in the years to come.