Franklin Regional earns another trip competitive spirit state championships

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Sunday, January 12, 2020 | 9:33 AM


Since the WPIAL officially sanctioned competitive spirit as a district-sponsored sport for the 2012-13 academic year, only 10 teams have qualified for the PIAA championships at least seven times.

One of those teams is Franklin Regional, whose third-place finish in the medium division at this year’s WPIAL championships vaulted the Panthers into another appearance at the event in Hershey.

It was their third straight trip to Chocolatetown. The only time the Panthers missed qualifying for the event was 2016-17. Only five teams have qualified eight times.

Each year, the WPIAL sends 15 teams to Hershey, automatically sending one team from the large division at the district championships, five from the medium division and six from the small division. The district then sends the next three highest scores, regardless of division.

The Panthers scored a 77.3 on a 100-point system at the district event at Hempfield on Jan. 4. That was the eighth-best overall score and good for third in the medium division behind Penn-Trafford’s 80.7 and Hempfield’s 78.5.

For Panthers coach Courtney Shovel and assistant Nikki Adasczik, qualifying is a product of the team being more prepared than they’ve ever been, and that is was a matter of getting over mental hurdles and nerves and performing like the Panthers know they can.

“Our philosophy as a team and program is we like a clean hit,” Shovel said. “We’re not going to throw anything that is too difficult. We want to be sure about it. We were really pleased, even with a hiccup at the end of our routine (at the WPIAL championship), that we were fortunate enough to advance to states.”

Thirty-four medium-division teams compete in Hershey. They are split into two panels of 17 teams, which compete against each other Friday.

From there, the top five teams in each of the two panels qualify for Saturday evening’s finals. For the remaining two spots in the 12-team, medium-division finals, the next best five from each panel compete in one combined semifinal, where the top two then join the other 10 qualifiers.

At the event in 2018, Franklin Regional advanced straight to the finals from the panel competition. Last year, it was a semifinalist before advancing and ended up taking 10th in the medium division. In 2018, it placed seventh in the small division.

The Panthers didn’t plan to change their 2 minute, 30 second routine much, though it has evolved since the beginning of the season because of obstacles, from a lack of practice time to illnesses and injuries.

“Assuming you don’t have any injuries or illnesses, your routine usually stays the same from the district event,” Shovel said.

“Sometimes we’ll upgrade it a little bit to give it a little more excitement or difficulty, which we’ve done this week and we’re hoping it pays off. We’ve spent this week getting them more comfortable with the part of the routine we had the hiccup on, so that doesn’t happen again.”

All in all, Shovel said it’s been a great season so far.

“This year has gone so fast because we’re lucky enough to get along really well, and we’re very motivated. As a coach, it’s probably been one of the best and easiest years,” said Shovel. “We have eight seniors, six of whom compete in this traditional routine, so that experience has been a big help for the younger girls. They’re a good intermediary between me and Nikki and the rest of the team.”

Franklin Regional’s season won’t come to an end after Hershey. The Panthers qualified in November for the UCA Nationals event at Disney in February.

That’s an event Franklin Regional qualified for semifinals in last year and is hoping to reach the finals this year.

In the end, Shovel and Adasczik emphasized the excitement level of the team and staff and pointed out the competitive nature of the events is just as fierce as in other sports.

“There are so many misconceptions about the sport and the people who participate in the sport,” Shovel said. “You really just have to see how hard these girls work and how dedicated they are to the team and their school. We’re so proud of them.”

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