FHS indoor track vying for 3A supremacy in WNC and the state

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Dan Finnerty

Franklin High School (FHS) track, be it outdoor, cross country, or indoor, continues to dominate Western North Carolina (WNC) competition, albeit without its own track.

Within just the past week, FHS competed in three meets: Winston-Salem, Swain County, and at the WNC Polar Bear Championships meet at Polk. Coaches Matt Harlfinger and Melissa Ward’s crews are finishing strong and among Mountain 7 Conference elite.

“We are having a stellar season so far,” professed Harlfinger. “The unique part of our sport is that the indoor championship comes down to executing on one particular day. My projection right now has us finishing second to Croatan High School (boys) and also to Dudley (girls). They are two very good programs, very well coached, great team cultures, and very talented.”

The WNC Polar Bear Championship, Jan. 27-29, saw the Panthers put on a display of excellence. Senior Elijah Cochran won three separate events, 55-meter (m) dash, 300m dash, and long jump, and placed second in 55m hurdles. Junior Laura Covarrubias won two of her own (300m dash and long jump) and was runner-up in another (55m hurdles). Senior Logan Russo won the 1600m run, while freshman Morgan Cress placed first in the same race for the girls with sophomore Amy Mendoza Lopez finishing second. Cress also won the 3200m final. Senior Boston Stringer won the girls’ pole vault and junior Charley Seagle took the shot-put event. Senior Aaron Jennings and junior Adam Rogers finished 1-2 in the boys’ pole vault. Senior Braxton Deal won the triple jump event. Teamwise, the boys won the 4x400m relay final.

At the Swain County Polar Meet, Jan. 24, FHS had some standout performances with Jennings and juniors Adam Rogers and David Rogers sweeping the top three positions in the pole vault. Similarly, the girls placed 1-2-3 in the long jump finals: Junior Justus Bradford, sophomore Isabella Shope, and senior Talley Kinsland. Junior Addison Coker won the 55m hurdles. In team events, boys won the 4x800m, while girls did the same in the 4x200m relays.

FRANKLIN HIGH School track athlete, Addison Coker, recently qualified to participate in the Feb. 10 state championship, along with other FHS athletes.

Indoor Track Seasonal Standouts

Senior Elijah Cochran has qualified for state in six events but is only allowed to compete in four. “If he has a really good day at the state meet, he will be in the conversation for 3A Most Valuable Player,” said Harlfinger.

Fellow senior Logan Russo may also be in that conversation. Russo will be on the FHS second-ranked 4×8 team; he is ranked top-three in the mile and top-four in the 1000m. FHS’ 4×4 relay team is also top-three. Adam Rogers is trying to keep the pole vault championship belt in Franklin after Blake Cassada did the same in 2023; Rogers is currently ranked first in 3A.

Covarrubias is also having a great season. She is currently ranked second in the long jump and fourth in the 55m hurdles – an event she just picked up a few weeks ago. Covarrubias has broken the FHS school record in both. 

Senior Hope Smith recently signed a scholarship with Gardner Webb University for track. She also broke the school record in the 55m dash this season. Smith anchored the state champion 4×200 relay last year and her coach thinks she has a good chance of being on the podium again this year.

Harlfinger concluded, “We may have a shot on the 4×400 as well this year. Our middle-distance group of girls is doing really well, with Morgan Cress, Amy Mendoza Lopez, Mindi Holbrooks, and Abigail Pope having broken the 4×800 record.” 

He added: “We lost the state meet in 2023 by one point and we didn’t have any distance girls in the mix. They have done a great job.”