FHS Cross Country team in midst of a smooth season

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Sasha Widman

The Franklin High School cross country teams have been “killing it this season,” stated
team member Dorothy Perez.

With five meets down and five more to go, FHS cross country has consistently been hitting personal records and has been “placing top at meets,” said Abigail Pope, a member of the team. Logan Russo, a senior on the team, beat the school’s 5K record with a time of 15 minutes and 32 seconds. This record has not been beaten in almost 30 years.

FHS Senior Logan Russo broke the school record in a 5K on Sept. 30 in Fairburn Ga., with a time of 15.32, five seconds faster than the record set by Chan Pons 29 years ago.

The cross country team is not just about running but also about developing “good character in our athletes,” according to Jeff Howard, who coaches cross country with Melissa Ward. “The team is looking forward to championships at the end of October.”

Coach Ward stated that there is “a lot of young talent” in the women’s team specifically. “We’re going to have a stellar team in the next year or so.”

She also shared that the FHS cross country team’s goals are to get faster, to qualify for the state level tournament and to develop good character. The team focuses on character building in various ways.

In fact, the cross country team regularly participates in community service projects. Their most recent endeavor being volunteering at CareNet, a nonprofit organization in Macon County. The cross country team at FHS “is very tight, very close knit,” said Coach Ward.

Additionally, the team members alternate hosting team dinners that are meant to boost morale and encourage friendship. The cross country team also regularly volunteers to work concessions for other FHS teams.

Coach Ward explained the uniqueness of cross country as a sport. “You have to spend so much time alone … you have to be a little special, and others on the team would agree.”

Pope added that a cross country runner’s perspective involves “a lot of willpower to do it [run], because really the last two miles of a race is not physical; it is all mental. Your mind is telling you to stop but you need to finish, so it’s like fighting against the urge to stop.”

Russo broke FHS’s 5K record at the Alexander/Asics Invitational on Sept. 30, which was his personal best of the season. The first meet of the FHS cross country season was hosted at Rabun Gap Nacoochee School. FHS men’s cross country placed first overall; the women’s team placed second overall. At their second meet “Friday Night Lights,” men’s cross country placed 15th out of 40 teams, while the women’s team placed 14th out of 34 teams.

At FHS cross country’s Murphy-hosted meet, the men’s and women’s cross country team placed first overall.

Ward shared that currently the team is trying to figure out “who’s really going to be legit for championships by the end of October.” Yet, only halfway through the season, FHS cross country is “on the right trajectory” to qualify for state, noted Pope.

Sasha Widman is a junior and an honor student at Franklin High School.