Tennis, track delivering winning seasons for FHS

Franklin High School photo by Vickie Carpenter

Dan Finnerty – Sports Writer

While baseball and softball tend to garner the most attention at the high school level, Franklin High School (FHS) has equally successful and in some cases better records in their other sports, including tennis and track and field. 

Tennis Team Wins Back-to-Back Conference Matches

April 17 saw the Panthers hosting conference foe Smoky Mountain. Building on a tough win in Hendersonville last week, FHS handled the Mustangs, 7-2, without the benefit of their top-seeded player winning his singles match. With Jack Sgro losing 1-6, 2-6, Mica Jacobs, Gavin Rinker, Orrin Mynes, Eli Adams, and Conner Baldwin all won singles matches to set the tone for the day. In doubles, Sgro/Jacobs won 8-4, while Rinker/Adams lost 5-7. For the final victory, Mynes/Sinclair took their match, 8-3. 

Head Coach Sammy Gunter admitted that after a close match in the first meeting with the Mustangs, he was expecting another one, “but the guys played well and won it in singles. Jacobs, Rinker, Mynes, and Baldwin all blitzed their opponents in impressive fashion,” Gunter said. He also added that in doubles, he was pleased with the performance of all three teams. 

“Mynes and Sinclair played their best match by far as they dominated the net and hit better overheads in tough, windy conditions. This was a good win for the guys and should spur them on to continue to improve,” he said.

Last week, FHS was at North Henderson on April 12 to face the Knights in another Mountain Seven conference match. The Panthers fielded eight sophomores and one freshman with hopes of besting a struggling North Henderson team. However, Gunter pointed out that with his fourth-seeded player, Mynes, away at a state competition, “the match was going to be a bit tougher against a much-improved North team.” Proving to be prophetic, the coach was correct – FHS squeaked out a 5-4 win over the Knights.

In singles, #1 seeded Sgro won easily, 6-3, 6-1. Second-seeded Jacobs also dominated his opponent, winning 6-1, 6-0. However, Rinker lost in two sets, 4-6 and 3-6. Number 4 seeded (with Mynes’ absence) Eli Adams won his match in three sets, losing the first, 2-6, winning the second, 6-3, thereby forcing a tiebreaker, which he won, 10-8.  Number 5 seed Will Sinclair split his two sets only to lose 8-10 in the tiebreaker, while #6-seeded Conner Baldwin prevailed 6-2, 6-0. 

In singles, Sgro, Jacobs, and Baldwin all outplayed their opponents for relatively easy wins,” said the coach. 

The close battles involved Adams and Sinclair, where both lost their first set and then bounced back to win the second, forcing a tie break. In doubles, Hyatt and Jacobs won 8-6, while Rinker and Adams lost 8-9 (4-7), requiring yet another tiebreaker to decide the outcome. 

“I was glad we won even though it was by the skin of our teeth. We still need to work on being more relaxed and confident when our opponents are attacking at the net and when we are up at the net. This would make life much easier for us in the tail end of the season,” said Gunter.

Track and Field teams compete at Asheville and Rabun Gap meets

FHS’s Track and Field student athletes were in Asheville April 18 to participate in the 2023 Navy-Gold Challenge. Team-wise, the men finished second with 106 points, only behind A.C. Reynolds with 110. On the ladies’ side, the Panthers placed third with 88 points, behind host Asheville (107.5) and West Henderson (113.5). In individual events, Junior Elijah Cochran won the 300-meter (m) hurdles with a 39.39 time and finished second in the 110m hurdles with a 15.54, both new FHS records. Sophomore Laura Covarrubias won the 100m dash at 12.70, while senior Isaiah Roots took first in the 400m with a 50.12 time. Covarrubias also came in second in the triple jump, with a 35’ 10.5”. Senior Blake Cassada again won the pole vault event, this time clearing 14’4”. He finished in front of two fellow Panthers – junior Aaron Jennings (13 ’0”) and sophomore Adam Rogers, also at (13’ 0”). Sophomore Charley Seagle won the girls’ shot-put competition with a 35’ 5” and the discus with a 100’ 1” toss. Senior Seth Brewer placed second in the shot-put with a 48’1” throw. In the girls’ 4X400m relay, FHS came in second behind Asheville with a 4:30.38 time. 

Last week saw the FHS Track and Field team in Georgia as part of a five-school invitational April 13. The Rabun Gap Nacoochee School (RGNS) Eagles always present a challenge for the Panthers when they are in the mix and this meet was no different. The boys’ team placed second out of the five teams, totaling 111 points to RGNS’ 120. For the girls, four teams participated and the Lady Panthers were bested only by the Eagles, 131-103. Some highlights included the boys 4X100 relay team getting the best score ever for FHS with a 43.53, while the girls had a second all-time best score in the same event with a 52.06. Covarrubias achieved a 45.94 in the 300m hurdles, which is second-best ever for the school, while senior Cal Drake also had the next best school score, historically, with a 6-5 high jump. 

Coach Matt Harlfinger pointed out that after some time practicing and away from official meets, it was good to get back on the track. 

“We have four track meets in 14 days before we head into our championship schedule with the Mountain Seven Conference Meet, Regionals, and then State. These next four meets should prepare us for a championship run and we feel like we have the ability to be in contention again.”

In other events where FHS excelled, Roots took first in the 100m dash (11.32), Cochran finished first in the 200 meter (22.88), and in the 110m hurdles (16.16). Sophomores Talon Smith (44.00) and Braylen Dezarn (44.88) finished first/second respectively in the 300m hurdles. Drake, in addition to the high jump, placed first in the triple jump (41-10), while senior Aiden Stewart took first in the boys’ discus with a 127-05 throw. Brewer placed first in the shot put with a 50-00 toss. 

On the women’s side, four Lady Panthers topped the 400m dash: Juniors Rylee Cassada (1:03.54) and Claire Ballard (1:05.81), freshman Michelle Ortega (1:05.95), and sophomore Maddie Holden (1:08.71). Sophomore Addison Coker took the top spots in 100m hurdles with a 17.78 and in the triple jump (34-03.25). Fellow sophomore Maddie Breeden finished second in the high jump with a 4-09 and Charley Seagle also took second in both the discus with (102-05) and the shot put (34-10).

Upcoming meets include April 22 at AC Reynolds, April 26 at Swain County (hosted on the Western Carolina University campus), and April 29 at TC Roberson.