Fast start takes toll on Tolosa in final race
Strategy is almost as important as speed for anyone competing in the Illinois High School Association state cross country finals.
Elite runners usually have two choices --- go for the lead right from the start, or hang back in the pack and risk falling too far behind to make up for the deficit over the 3-mile course at Peoria’s Detweiller Park.
Evanston’s Essay Tolosa chose the first option but couldn’t maintain the pace at last Saturday’s Class 3A finals and wound up in 152nd place with a time of 15 minutes, 52.15 seconds. Micah Wilson of St. Charles East claimed the state title in 14:11.18, 3 seconds faster than runnerup Nick Falk of New Trier.
Tolosa’s mile split of 4:44 was impressive, but the ETHS senior would have had to keep up that pace to earn his goal of a top 25 finish that would have earned him All-State recognition.
Instead, Tolosa had to settle for being the first male runner to represent the Wildkits at the state finals since Max Peterson in 2018.
Tolosa actually would have qualified for State last year, after earning a 7th place sectional finish, but no state finals were conducted by the IHSA due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A concussion that delayed his training at the start of this season and a series of nagging injuries that impacted his workouts during the year left the Wildkit coaching staff wondering “what if?” those circumstances had been different.
“I was hoping Essay would do a little better,” said Evanston head coach Donald Michelin Jr. “He tried to give himself a shot in his last race of the season because he felt all along that he belonged with the top runners. He tried to go all out, just to see what he could do.
“He started out pretty fast, but he’s never been that fast before (for the first mile) and I think it took its toll. He just didn’t have the (training) base those other runners had. He just wasn’t in shape to maintain that start.
“It was a never-ending story with leg and shin problems and it was a rough ride for him just to get back and race this year. He just never really got going. Last year he had a good body of work all season, but we couldn’t even get him going with any interval work until the postseason. He just wasn’t the guy he was at the end of last year.”