Franklin Regional sends 2 runners to state track meet

Saturday, May 18, 2024 | 11:01 AM

Franklin Regional coach Bob Ralston joked that he can retire after his son Eryk qualified for the PIAA track and field championship on May 24-25.

Eryk Ralston finished fourth in the Class 3A 400-meter dash in the WPIAL meet at Slippery Rock’s Mihalik-Thompson Stadium on May 15 to earn his spot at Shippensburg University.

Other than Ralston’s performance, the Panthers had numerous near-misses.

Abigail Paterline finished fifth in the 100 hurdles but missed the qualifying standard by 0.13 of a second.

In the 3,200, Caroline Shirley and Nathan Kociela each finished ninth and met the state qualifying standards. They needed to finish in the top eight.

The surprise of the day came when Butler’s Owen Dressler, who finished eighth in the 3,200, decided to give his spot at states to Kociela.

With Dressler withdrawing from the event to concentrate on a relay, Kociela will be moved to eighth and earn a trip to Shippensburg.

“I thanked him,” Kociela said. “It’s surreal. I can’t believe it. I’m so excited to get the opportunity.

”There are so many great 3,200 runners in the WPIAL. The top three in the state ran here today and Butler’s Drew Griffith smashed the WPIAL record.”

Ralston said he was so happy for Kociela.

“Nathan has worked so hard all season and deserved a shot at going to states,” Coach Ralston said. “He and Eryk put in a lot of work.

“Eryk talked to his friend from Woodland Hills, and he gave him his college workout program. Eryk cut three seconds from his time.”

Ralston said a disappointing showing turned into a good day.

“The team worked hard all season and we’re improving,” Ralston said.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at


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