Dan Finnerty – Sports Writer
The North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) Indoor Championship
Meet was held Saturday, Feb. 10, at the James D. Letchinger (JDL) Fast Track in Winston-Salem. Franklin High School (FHS) participated in the event, led by coaches Matt Harlfinger and Melissa Ward. The Panthers had nearly 30 qualifiers competing in 20 events and were pitted against top runners representing many other 3A high school programs. The 109.5 points tallied up by FHS were the most of any school participating in the statewide event. In team competition, the men finished in first place and the women won second place – missing the top spot by one point.
FHS team members offered outstanding individual performances. Senior Blake Cassada won the men’s pole vault competition at 13-feet, 6-inches. Sophomore Adam Rogers was second, with Junior Aaron Jennings coming in fourth. Three out of the top four pole vaulters in the state 3A are Panthers. Junior Boston Stringer also won best in the state with the pole vault on the girls’ side with a height of 10-feet, 6-inches.
“Getting to be the pole vault coach of the #1 boy and #1 girl at the 3A meet was a pretty awesome privilege,” he said. “The NCHSAA gave the boys program a big shout out here,” Harlfinger said at the meet.
The Lady Panthers took first place in the 4X200 meter relay with a time of 1:45:48 and second place in the 4X400 relay at 4:12:03. Sophomore Laura Covarrubias finished second in the jump (17-feet, 5-inches). On the men’s side, FHS had no relay finish higher than seventh, but the combined placement of team and individual performances netted them first place overall. Other standout performances included junior Elijah Cochran, who placed third in the 300-meter dash (36:04) and fourth in the 54-meter hurdles (7:88); senior Isaiah Roots with fourth place in the 500-meter dash (1:07:29); and, senior Cal Drake, who placed second in the high jump at 6-feet, 2-inches.
Covarrubias and Jennings also were recognized with the Farm Bureau Sportsmanship award.
The track program is currently conducting fundraising efforts to assist with paying bus drivers, hotel costs, entry fees for meets, and myriad other items such as team shirts, ice cream for the kids, and more. Anyone wanting to contribute can send a check to the high school, annotating use for “Track.”
Harlfinger and Ward will not have much time to rest; track and field practice began Feb. 15.