FHS Track and Field take first and third in State Championship meet

Franklin High School Men’s Track & Field team became the 2023 3A Men’s Track & Field State Champions this past Friday, beating out all competitors for the first time since 1995.
Franklin High School Men’s Track & Field team became the 2023 3A Men’s Track & Field State Champions this past Friday, beating out all competitors for the first time since 1995.

Dan Finnerty – Sports Writer

The Franklin High School (FHS) Track and Field team continued its impressive run under the leadership of coaches Matt Harlfinger and Melissa Ward. Competing at the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) meet at Greensboro Friday, May 19, the Panther men took first place for the 3A State Championship while the women brought home third place. The Lady Panthers (35 points) finished behind Dudley (70) and Statesville (49). The men took the championship with 59.5 points, ahead of Dudley (54) and Croatan (51) high schools. This is the first time FHS has won a men’s outdoor championship since back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995. 

“We had a total effort on both sides. Athletes, coaches, parents, [school] administration, and more all came together to make a championship possible,” Harlfinger commented on the feat.

Individually at the state meet, senior Blake Cassada was the sole Panther who brought home an individual championship. He won the pole vault event with a 13-06, besting North Lincoln’s Logan Jones by 6 inches. Of note, FHS sophomore Adam Rogers took fifth place (12-06) and junior Aaron Jennings placed seventh with the same height in the pole vault. On the girls’ side, the 4×200 meter (m) team of Michelle Ortega, Isabelle Duchemin, Laura Covarrubias, and Hope Smith broke the FHS school record with a fifth-place finish of 1:46.52. 

Elsewhere, senior Cal Drake took second in the high jump with a 6-06 and senior Isaiah Roots took third in the men’s 400m dash with a 49.45; FHS placed third in the men’s 4x800m with an 8:14.69 time.

On the women’s side, sophomore Covarrubias finished second in the 300m hurdles with a 44.65, barely losing first to West Henderson’s Emma Hall (44.42). The girls’ 4x100m relay team took third with a 49.81 time. In the pole vault event, sophomore Boston Stringer also came in third with a 10-06 vault. 

Reflecting on both the winter indoor season and the just completed track and field season, it has been quite a run for FHS. In addition to the aforementioned state meet May 19, the boys were Indoor State champions, Regional 3A West champions, and Mountain Seven Conference (MSC) champions. The girls were also MSC champions, and Regional 3A West champions. The Lady Panther 4x200m team was also the State 3A Indoor champion.

Individually, Drake won FHS Athlete of the Month for May; Covarrubias won the same award in December. Drake, Covarrubias, and Jennings all won the NCHSAA Sportsmanship Award. Cassada was both Indoor and Outdoor State pole vault men’s champion and Stringer was Indoor State pole vault women’s champion. Stringer and Cassada were also named Western North Carolina (WNC) Athletes of the Year while the FHS boys were named WNC Team of the Year. MSC field event Most Valuable Player awards went to Drake and Covarrubias. 

Women’s Coach Ward and Robbie Tompa, team sprint coach, were named Mountain Seven Coaches of the Year.

The 2022-2023 FHS Sports Awards Banquet will be held tonight, Thursday, May 25, at 5:30 p.m., in the school gymnasium.

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