Coaches speak out on top performing athletes

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Dan Finnerty

Macon Sense reported in the last edition on Franklin High School’s (FHS) spring baseball and softball highlights. Most recently, in fact, FHS sophomore softball player Kendall Rumans won the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Athlete of the Week for Week 33 (March 13-20). Rumans is the eighth FHS student athlete to win the award in its 10-year existence, but according to FHS Principal Blair King, she is the first softball player to garner the honor. 

In this edition, we are focusing attention on outdoor track, golf, men’s tennis, and women’s soccer. Each head coach was asked to provide some examples of standout students and performances this spring.


Head Coach Matt Harlfinger recalled that Elijah Cochran recently broke the 110m hurdle and 200m records at Rabun Gap. Cochran was also the 3A Indoor State MVP and he is currently a finalist for the NC State Runner of the Year. Harlfinger pointed out that voting closed on April 21.

Regarding some other outstanding efforts, the coach provided numerous examples:

  • Morgan Cress, a freshman, broke the FHS two-mile record earlier this outdoor season, with a time of 11:43.68.
  • Junior Laura Covarrubias broke the FHS long jump record with 17-feet, and 10.5 inches.
  • Audrey Pressley, also just a freshman, long jumped 17-feet, 3.5 inches, and is currently Top 15 in the country for freshman long jumpers.
  • Senior Logan Russo is having another stellar outdoor season in the [longer] distance events, while fellow senior Aaron Jennings has been doing well in the pole vault.
  • Justin Rodriguez has run the #6 time in school history in the 200m and 400m dash and he is just a sophomore.
  • Senior Claire Ballard (discus) and junior Charley Seagle (shot put) have also been dominant in the throwing events.


FHS golf Head Coach Ryan Raby reported, “In my seven years as head coach, this is the strongest team I’ve had. [Sophomore] Tanner Jones has been our best and most consistent player all year. He has won several matches and has not been out of the top three in any event.”

FHS GOLFER Cameron Trubicza measures a fairway shot during a recent match.

With one regular season match remaining, the team top performers are:

  • Tanner Jones                           9-hole 38.8               18-hole 77.3
  • Max McClure (Jr.)                   9-hole 41.9                18-hole 83.5
  • Ashton Shope (Sr.)                9-hole 42.2                18-hole 84.1
  • Cole Martin (Jr.)                     9-hole 43.0                18-hole 85.5
  • Gabe Stilwell (Jr.)                  9-hole 43.4                18-hole 87.3
  • Cameron Trubicza (Sr.)        9-hole 45.8                18-hole 92.3
  • Nico Abbate (Fr.)                   9-hole 46.1                 18-hole 92.2

The Mountain Seven Conference (M7C) three-round tournament began April 22 and FHS hosted the first round at Sky Valley Country Club (CC). On April 24, the team traveled to Cummings Cove in Hendersonville for the second round. The tournament is scheduled to conclude April 29 at Springdale CC in Canton, N.C. 

The combined three-round totals will determine team and individual champions, as well as which teams and individuals advance to the regional round, also scheduled to be held at Springdale on May 7.


Long-tenured FHS tennis coach Sammy Gunter reported that this year’s team had a great attitude and worked hard. Prior to the season’s final regular season match, a 7-2 loss to West Henderson, the coach was proud of the team fielded this year. 

JUNIOR ORRIN Mynes serves during a match against West Henderson April 18.

“Even though we lost some returning players from last year’s squad, Gavin Rinker, Eli Adams, Orrin Mynes, and Jack Hyatt have been steady while Brennan Cabe (injured) and the new guys, Josiah Holt, Myles Bargman, Jonah Brant, and Chris Lococo have gained experience,” stated Gunter. 

He added, “The most consistent player on the team this year has been Eli as he has the best record and has been mentally tough in several match tie breaks to get hard fought wins.” 

Gunter observed that the whole team really improved from the beginning of the season and is still eager to learn more. “That mindset makes for a good team but also bolsters each individual for life’s challenges.” 

Women’s Soccer

After three years of coaching at Macon Middle School, Sam Vargas took over the reins of the FHS women’s varsity soccer program this spring. With 12 games under their cleats, the Lady Panthers are at 5-6-1 overall but winning within the M7C at 4-2-1. 

CHRISTINA RODRIQUEZ has inspired the women’s soccer team this season according to Coach Sam Vargas.

Vargas seems to have turned the corner in the last seven games. The team has six remaining contests, all within conference. The coach highlighted one player in particular as standing out, in his view, due to her attitude and effort throughout the season.

He shared that junior Christina Ruelas Rodriquez started the preseason training to play forward, hoping to have a vital role. The competition was tough with many talented players who played that position. 

“As a coach I was struggling to find a role for Christina early on,” said Vargas. “It was hard for her to find her place, by coming off the bench and playing only a few minutes.”

Midway through the season the team experienced multiple injuries in key positions. “We had to make changes to the line up and I had Christina try a new role as center defensive midfield,” said Vargas. “Her debut game she played outstanding, defending side to side and pressing the ball forward for goal scoring opportunities.” 

He went on to share that Rodriquez’s presence was so felt in that game that she earned a spot in the starting lineup. “She has held the center defensive midfield position for the last six games and has not come off the field,” said Vargas. “Her stats will not show up on a stat sheet, but she gives us an advantage every game, providing decisive attacks and quality defending.”

He concluded, “Her story is what we want our team to be about – always training hard and earning the right to play. As a coach, these are the moments that I am most proud. It’s not the wins nor the goals, but helping players find a place where they feel they are contributing to the overall success of the team.”