Franklin Regional track teams claim section titles with undefeated records

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Saturday, April 30, 2022 | 10:01 AM


Franklin Regional pulled a section double-dip this spring, winning team titles in boys and girls track and field for just the second time in program history.

Both teams posted 6-0 section records.

Seventh-year coach Bob Ralston knew he had talent but wasn’t sure if it was full-on section-winning kind of talent.

“I did have my doubts we could go 6-0, especially the boys,” Ralston said. “Last year, 15 out of 18 events were led by seniors, and we had very few juniors on the team. Losing that many leaders is hard to recover from quickly.

“On the girls side, we only lost one top point-scorer, so I knew they had a good shot at the title. Central and Oakland Catholic always give us a big challenge.”

Ralston said unexpected roster turnover at Central and Oakland Catholic can change the outcome of meets and makes it tough to game plan for meets against those programs.

“Our meets are usually decided by some random event third-place finish,” he said. “They don’t have an eighth grade to see what the upcoming talent looks like. … You just never know what they are going to bring.”

But Franklin Regional was ready for anything this year.

“Our kids are tenacious,” Ralston said. “They go hard at practice and in competition. They know what I expect from them, and they don’t want to disappoint. My coaching staff is also a big reason for our success. We all strive to be the best coach we can be. The effort we put in to planning, training and trying to help these kids be their best is noticed by the kids, and they respond to it.”

While many of the top teams in the WPIAL rely heavily on their track athletes, Ralston said his team became proficient in the field events.

“It seems every season there is a group that stands out,” Ralston said. “Years past, it was jumpers or middle distance, but this year I have to recognize our throwers. They have been sweeping events in the section meets and really stepping up to get new personal records when needed to win those points.”

Nick Petrucci, Andrew Nesler and Nick Larese have been key throwers of the shot put and discus.

Larese’s throw of 122 feet, 5 inches in the discus is a team record. Petrucci is second at 120-7.

But track success still matters greatly, and the Panthers know how to produce middle- and long-distance talent.

A key senior leader has been runner Nick Provenzo, one of the top point-scorers for the boys.

“He has brought in a lot of points in his races and is the finishing leg for both the 4-by-4 and 4-by-8 (relays), which has had good success as well,” Ralston said. “We have a strong group of 10th-grade boys who are working hard and have a bright future.”

Sierra Todero leads the girls’ jumpers, while Leah Brockett is the top distance scorer, and Alexandra Hartman is the go-to hurdler. Hartman also competed in the high jump to get much-needed points.

Perhaps the tie that binds the program is its adjustment to sharing athletes with other sports, clubs and activities.

“Their most impressive trait can be viewed as a blessing and a curse for the team,” Ralston said. “What impresses me the most about the kids is how many activities they participate in and still can show up and perform in track. There are days when a lot of kids are not at practice. It’s not because they are lazy; it’s because they have commitments elsewhere.”

So, an athlete might leave early or arrive late to appease a busy weekday schedule. But they have shown up for meets, and that has mattered most to the Panthers.

Ralston wonders what some of his kids could do as full-time track and field athletes.

“Track is not the first love for most of these athletes,” Ralston said. “Many have other sports that come first because they have been doing them since a very young age. The team is also full of club members, band members, national honors members, musical performers, working a job, and so much other stuff. Sharing these kids with so many other activities does cut into training time, and when you lose training time it does hinder them from reaching the highest levels, which is where most of them want to be.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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