Team mottos write the way forward for boys track & field

Every season, boys track & field team follows a different motto. This year, that saying was this: Your best ability is your availability.

“It means being there each and every day, not letting your obstacles get in the way of your success,” said coach Don Michelin.

By adhering to this phrase, the team was able to run, jump and throw their way to 14th place at state out of more than 100 Class 3A schools. 

The Kits’ finish was highlighted by an individual state title from class of 2022 senior Matt Cless in the High Jump. Cless jumped a personal best height of 2.02 meters that day—the only athlete in the state who cleared two meters—netting 10 points towards Evanston’s team score.

“Matt Cless is one of the best young people that I’ve had an opportunity to work with,” said Michelin. “I’ve been doing this since 1980.”

The team scored seven more points when Cless combined forces with fellow class of 2022 senior Vorn Ellis, as well as seniors Miles Granjean and Skyler Lee in the 4×400 meter relay. The squad’s final time of 3:21.42 was a massive improvement off their prelim time of 3:24.82, and a modest improvement off their sectional championship effort of 3:22.70. However, Evanston’s performance in this event still came in slightly below expectations—-the Kits were seeded first coming into state but ended up settling for third.

“I was happy that we placed third, but I was also a little bit disappointed, because I feel like we had the ability to get first,” said Granjean. 

While they did not make it to the final, Cless, Ellis, Granjean and Lee competed in the 4×100 meter relay as well. Their prelim time of 43.31 earned them 19th place. It took a 42.84 to make it back—notably slower than the 42.65 the Kits ran at Sectionals.

The final three of Evanston’s twenty points came when Ellis placed seventh in the individual 400 meters. His time of 49.44 knocked nearly a quarter second off of his sectional championship time of 49.68, and was also a new personal best.

Interestingly, this was only Ellis’s second year running varsity track after missing both his sophomore and junior seasons.

“Vorn Ellis showed how special he was when he was a freshman,” said Michelin. “But then after that, he started having leg problems with his shin and we kind of lost track. Sophomore year he didn’t come back. Junior year [was] COVID. So now he comes in his senior year, he’s missed, basically, two and a half years of reps. That is hard to do. And then he comes back and picks up where he left off and was just outstanding all year.” 

Although neither scored points, class of ‘22 seniors Tim Russell and Jalen James also competed in individual events at state. Russell finished 28th in the Shot Put with a distance of 14.73 meters, slightly off his personal best of 16.06 meters, and James took part in the Triple Jump, but unfortunately committed a foul and did not make it out of prelims. Had James matched his sectional performance of 13.35 meters, he would have tied for seventh place.

For a program that’s accumulated eight state titles over the years, 14th place may appear to be an underwhelming finish, but it was essentially what Michelin expected.

“We just couldn’t hold it down the stretch,” said Michelin. “That’s the season in a nutshell. We were right there, and just didn’t quite have enough to grab it.”

And the motto for next season?

You get what you put in.