Michael Ilesanmi’s footwork in soccer is what his track and field coaches noticed first his freshman year, and it’s why they pushed him to try jumping.
Four years later, the Ewing High School graduate is headed to St. Peter’s University after becoming one of the best long and triple jumpers in the county and state. In his final Mercer County Championships meet, Ilesanmi soared 21-feet-1.75 in the long jump and hopped, skipped and jumped 44-feet-1 in the triple jump. He earned a pair of bronze medals.
“I’m happy that I placed top three in both of my main events,” Ilesanmi said. “I feel like I could have done better in both. I feel like I had a bad day in jumping.”
It says something that on his self-described bad day he still earned a pair of third-place medals in a county that is as competitive as any in the state.
Ilesanmi has gotten more serious about track each year in high school, and is listed on the St. Peter’s track and field roster with a chance to put even more focus into it. He set a good example for his younger Ewing teammates beginning in the winter. For the first time, he did indoor track to get ready for the spring.
“It really helped me,” Ilesanmi said. “I was more prepared for the outdoor season. Instead of just relaxing in the winter, I had more training.”
That earlier start paid off at the end of the spring season when it was most important to be at his best. He set lofty goals for the state meets and will be looking to build on them at the next level in college. He’s always had a plan for how to get the most of himself.
“To take my training to another level, be more serious,” Ilesanmi said. “And leave it all out on the track, and give it all I’ve got when I’m competing.”
It’s the sort of example that Ewing has asked of all its athletes as they find their niche in track and field. The Blue Devils will have plenty of competition and motivation to drive them.
“It’s about their effort,” Coach Dan Montferrat said. “If they feel they’ve put forth everything they can and done everything they can to put themselves in the best position to succeed, then I’m happy, because that’s all I preach as head coach.”
Ewing placed seventh in the MCT with 36 points. “I was encouraged by it,” said Dan Montferrat, a longtime assistant who took over as head coach this year.
Ewing topped Hopewell, Nottingham, Lawrence and Robbinsville in the regular season then showed it was no fluke with their county performance. It left Ilesanmi pleased with how his career with the Ewing team ended.
“I feel like this may be the best team we’ve had,” Ilesanmi said. “We have more people for every event that contributes. It’s more fun. We’ve done well in dual meets. We have four wins and two losses.”
Ilesanmi came through again at the Group 3 state championships. He placed in the top four again in all three of his events. He was second in the long jump with a 22-5.5 personal-best leap, placed fourth in the triple jump at 44-11 and helped the 4×100 relay take third place in 42.62 seconds.
“In regards to Ewing, it has a historically great track program, a historically great athletic program period,” Montferrat said. “So when these kids put that Ewing jersey on, they know ‘I have to go out and represent and do all that I can to uphold tradition.’”
Ilesanmi has tried to do that throughout his career. He learned what it would take over time to become a standout. A soccer-first athlete, he took up track and field for the first time in sixth grade.
“I had soccer and I had friends convince me to come out,” Ilesanmi recalled. “Ever since then, I took it and ran with it.”
He had a taste of jumping in eighth grade, but as a freshman he was experimenting with a lot of different events before committing fully to the jumps. He was thrilled to see major progress at the end of last season.
“I finally got all my phases perfect,” Ilesanmi said. “One little mess-up can affect your whole jump.”
He remained on a steady rise after putting his energy into his jumping events. He broke through last year. He was a 16-1 long jumper as a freshman, climbed to 17-feet as a sophomore and then hit 20-feet for the first time last year. He pushed himself to a new 22-feet-5.5 personal record as a senior.
In the triple jump, his results were much the same. He began as a 34-11 freshman, made one major improvement to 39-feet-6 as a sophomore, then hit another level when he flew 44-7.75 at last year’s Group III state meet. He missed the final spot for the MOC by one spot, but made the MOC two weeks after setting a best of 45-9½ and also advanced to the MOC in long jump as a bonus.
Ilesanmi placed 14th in the long jump at 20-feet-10, and came within an inch of his new personal record in the triple jump when he jumped 44-7 for 15th place.
Meanwhile, the future will have a nice core to rely on this coming year. Freshman Mekhi Gibson and sophomore Gabe Abel were part of the 4×100 that finished fourth at counties. Dailan Peck was fourth in high jump. Michael Riehl took eighth in the discus.
“Our team performed quite well,” Ilesanmi said. “We had some nice points from Dahva’e in the 200 and 400 and Nasir Bland in the 110 hurdles.”