Franklin’s fairy tale season gets better

State Championship Previews

Saturday: Tornillo boys.

Sunday: San Elizario boys.

Monday: Hanks boys.

Tuesday: Eastwood boys.

Wednesday: Franklin girls.

Thursday: Americas boys.

Friday: Individual qualifiers. Class 6A – Americas senior Mariana Guzman; Montwood junior Karyme Garcia, Coronado senior Nick Gonzalez and freshman Kyra Walker and Franklin senior Fernie Morales, Franklin. Class 5A – Jefferson sophomore Crystal Peterson and junior Melody Tsuitsumi; Lauren Walls, sophomore, Eastwood; Eastlake sophomore Israel David and Angel Contreras, senior, Chapin. Class 4A- Mt. View junior  Kayhla Talavera, senior Nicole Estrada and junior Joshua Gonzalez and Karina Gallegos, junior, San Elizario. Class 3A – Freshman, Kylene Elias, Tornillo.

Make Plans

What: UIL State Cross Country Championship.

When:  Saturday Nov. 9. All times (CST): Girls Class 3A, 10:50 a.m.; Boys Class 3A, 11:20 a.m.; Girls Class 4A, noon;  Boys Class 4A, 12:30 p.m.; Girls Class 5A, 1:10 p.m.; Boys Class 5A, 1:50 p.m.; Girls Class 6A, 2:30 p.m.; Boys Class 6A, 3:10 p.m.

Where:  Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.

At Stake: State team and individual titles.

 

FranklinDuo
Sophomores Jenna Saunders (left) and Jordan Torres have been solid for the Cougars all season. Saunders was 37th at regionals and Torres was 43rd in 19:35.10.

Coming into the season, Franklin cross country coach Anthony Laspada thought 2020 would be the year his girl’s team would advance to the UIL Cross Country Championship.

With four freshmen, two sophomores and a junior, his timeline made sense.

But the Franklin girls – freshmen Alyssa Laspada, Sophia Camacho, Amanda Sotelo and Michele Paillard, sophomores Jenna Saunders and Jordan Torres and All State runner and Region 1-6A champion, Eva Jess – had different ideas.

For the first time, a girl’s team from Franklin advanced to the state championship.

The boys accomplished that feat in 2001.

“We knew how tough it was going to be, but in our hearts, we were never going to back down,” Laspada said. “We had nothing to lose so we were going to go out swinging.”

By the slimmest of margins, the team finished fourth tied with Lewisville Marcus with 154 points but Sotelo, the Cougars sixth runner, placed four spots better than the Marcus runner to give the Cougars the bid to state.

Franklin-Sotelo
Freshman Amanda Sotelo, the Cougars sixth runner, placed four spots better than the Marcus runner to give the Cougars the bid to state.

“I told the girls that everybody has to get on that starting line and everybody has to run, it’s just a matter of who has the biggest heart,” Laspada said. “Even if they didn’t qualify I was proud of their performance and the way they worked together. I knew, watching them in that race, that they were giving it their all, it was in God’s hands. We were blessed.”

Jess, the lone junior, won the Region 1 title in 16:56.80. Last year, she finished the state meet in 14th place in 17:40.36. Her freshman year, she was fifth in 17:34.75.

“It’s so great having my teammates with me this time,” she said. “We were all so excited, the girls were all in tears when we found out. This is going to be a great experience for all of them, a memory that will be with them the rest of their lives.”

Mooch, Jess’s smiling stuffed monkey, will also make the trip.

Laspada continues to be impressed with the his girls team-first, every-runner-counts mentality.

“Besides Eva, who has just come out and dominated, every week there is a different runner who shows up,” he said. “At one time or another, all these girls have carried each other, and that’s what it’s all about. That’s what a good team is all about, if somebody is down then somebody else will pick them up.”

FranklinAlyssa
Franklin freshman Alyssa Laspada is spent after chasing down Marissa Gross form South Grand Prairie. Laspada was the Cougars No. 2 at Regionals.

The work ethic – and the winning – is contagious.

“It’s amazing what it’s done for our chemistry and camaraderie,” he said. “They spend so much time together not only running but just hanging out and being friends. I really believe that attributes to why they are so successful.”

That team togetherness translates into results.

“They never take a day off, either,” Laspada said. “A lot of kids can become complacent, our girls are the complete opposite. They work harder and harder each and every day and that’s trickling down to our lower levels.”

As proof, Franklin’s top five scorers ran sub 20s at regionals including Jess,  Laspada (34th, 19:13.00), Saunders (37th, 19:1820), Camacho (39th, 19:27.30) and Jordan Torres (43rd, 19:35.10).

“It’s amazing, I still can’t believe it,” said Alyssa Laspada, the coach’s daughter. “We’ve been working so hard for this moment ever since the summer.”

Last year, these freshmen were running at middle school meets. On Saturday, they will race against the best in Texas.

“We are not intimidated, we are very much up for the challenge,” she said. “I’ve been dreaming about going to state since I was very young. We’re going to do the best we can. Coming into the season we were hoping to make state, now we think we have a chance at the top 10, that would be great for us.”

Laspada said he hopes the energy from qualifying translates to a special Saturday afternoon.

“It’s tough every year,” he said about qualifying to state. “Next year is never guaranteed. We have to live in the moment and do our best when we get there. Just like at regionals, we’re going to go out swinging, we have nothing to lose. It’s been an amazing ride, a nice little fairy tale, for our whole team. We are truly blessed.”

Author: Victor R. Martinez

My love of running began with my son Deric. His passion and talent for distance running opened my eyes to a sport I never imaged I would embrace with such enthusiasm. As a journalist at the El Paso Times, I was the lead writer for cross country and track for several years and I was able to tell the stories of these amazing unsung athletes. Never a runner myself, I decided to change that when I turned 50 in 2016 when I trained for my first 5K. I've been running ever since and I love every minute of it - well - sort of.

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