Family and friends keep coronacoaster ride manageable as Franklin heads to state

State Championship Previews

Today: Tornillo boys.

Thursday: San Elizario boys.

Friday: Eastwood boys.

Saturday: Franklin girls.

Sunday: Individual qualifiers. Class 6A – Americas senior Michael Mier; Americas junior Jared Laverty; Eastlake junior Israel David; Eastwood junior, Lauren Walls-Portillo and Montwood sophomore, Kassandra Jimenez. Class 5A – Burges junior, Pamela Ramirez; Jefferson junior, Monique Correa; El Paso High senior, Josep Ferret; Hanks sophomore, Alejandro Tarin; Chapin senior, Joaquin Ortega, Chapin. Class 4A – Riverside junior, Andrew Valdiviezo. Class 3A – Tornillo sophomore, Kylene Elias.

Make Plans

What: UIL State Cross Country Championship.

When:  Monday, Nov. 23. All times (MDT): Class 3A girls, 10:45 a.m.; Class 3A boys, 11:30 a.m.; Class 5A girls, 1:30 p.m.; Class 5A boys, 2:15 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24: Class 4A boys, 11:30 a.m.; Class 6A girls, 1:30 p.m.; Class 6A boys, 2:15 p.m.

Where:  Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.

At Stake: State team and individual titles.

The Franklin Cougars are headed to its second straight Class 6A UIL State Cross Country Championship.

As the world continues to deal with COVID-19, cross country athletes across the state have been on a three-month ride on the coronacoaster, never really knowing if the season would be completed or not.

In El Paso, it was even worse. The season was put in jeopardy a week before districts when the El Paso, Socorro and Canutillo school districts suspended athletics for two weeks because of the uptick in COVID-19 cases in El Paso.

It wasn’t until less than 24 hours before the scheduled district championships were to take place when a decision was made to allow them to race. The meet was pushed back one day to give the athletes time to prepare.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Alyssa Laspada, a  sophomore at Franklin. “We were on Facetime all day that day. We didn’t know what to do. One minute we thought we would be racing and start to mentally prepare for it and then the next minute we weren’t. I’m glad we did, but either way, we would have made the most of it.”

The Franklin Cougars are headed to its second straight Class 6A UIL State Cross Country Championship.

The team – senior Eva Jess and Ally Little, juniors Jenna Saunders and Jordan Torres, and sophomores Laspada, Michele Paillard and Sofia Camacho – will race at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Jess finished second at last year’s championship in 17:12.18. The team finished 15th.

Franklin sophomore Alyssa Laspada is looking for better things at Tuesday’s Class 6A State Championship.

If the 2020 cross country season has taught us anything, it’s that we all need our friends.

“Our girls are very close, they are constantly with each other,” said Anthony Laspada, Franklin’s cross country coach. “Ally, Alyssa, Jenna and Jordan have made the season really fun for the entire group – they’re all into Tiktok and dancing around. They’ve made everyone on the team relax this season and that played out to be a huge advantage for us.”

Coach Laspada said the team bonding and the genuine love for one another translated into a successful season.

“They are very kind and loving with one another and they want do well for each other,” he said. “They are very close friends who care about about each other and are willing to sacrifice for one another.”

 Laspada describes his team as kind and caring.

“These are ladies who would never wish the worst on anybody,” he said. “For example, at regionals they saw Kyra Walker from Coronado warming up by herself and my girls went over there and asked her to warm up with them. We all wanted her to do well. We are all an El Paso family.”

The Cougars have great class balance which bodes well for the future.

“Eva and Ally are our seniors and Ally just came in but she fit in perfectly with the other girls, just like a glove,” Laspada. “Jenna and Jordan are juniors, but they have been around and so has Alyssa.”

Laspada and Saunders have been friends since fourth grade and have since formed strong bonds with all the girls.

“It’s crazy that Ally, Alyssa, Jenna and Jordan are always together,” coach Laspada said. “If they do anything, it’s together.”

One of their favorite things to do is watching The Bachelorette or The Bachelor on Tuesday nights or Franklin football games on Friday night.

“We’ve been doing that since last year,” Alyssa Laspada said. “We call it Bachelor Night. We also have a lot of sleepovers, too.”

Franklin junior Jenna Saunders has been solid all year for the Cougars.

Saunders said that closeness is reflected in the way the team runs together.

“All the girls get along so well,” she said. “I don’t think we would be the same team if we weren’t this close. We run for each other. We love each other so much and we want what’s best for each other.”

Even in the bad times, Saunders said it’s almost best to have great friends to lift spirits up.

“We all have had bad races so we all understand that feeling,” she said. “We just need to make sure we all know that things happen and we’re there to support each other and to let them know it’s OK and it will be better next time.”

The 2020 season, although difficult, has been a rewarding one for Franklin.

“We didn’t know if we were going to have a season at all,” Saunders said. “One thing coach always tells us is, ‘run as if this were your last race’ because you really never know. To be able to run the whole season and to make it all the way to state is such a blessing.”

Franklin will try to make the most of their opportunity next Tuesday.

“We want to do really well and we’re going to try our best, that’s for sure,” Saunders said. “We are so lucky that we all stayed healthy, this is really exciting.”

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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