In my book, Franz is a champ


FranzThe past weekend was the culmination for many high school athletic teams as they participated in one state championship performance or another.

The Hillsboro High School track and field team was no different, as it descended on the campus of Wichita State University to compete for various titles in Cessna Stadium.

I?ve always held the state track meet in high esteem. The meet is well run. It?s amazing to sit in the stands and watch so much talent all gathered in one place. Coaches and officials alike generally realize that, ultimately, the weekend is about all the kids who have worked hard to earn a place to compete, and they judge events accordingly.

But as with all things that are human-driven, there will be errors. And this weekend, an error in judgment cost a championship for one of the Hillsboro track and field athletes.

In instances like this, it?s hard not to point fingers. It?s hard not to ask the state association to justify its decision to allow a girl to re-run a 400-meter dash preliminary because of a slipped block?a mechanical error?and not allow the same consideration when it?s human error. It would have been the right thing to do.

But that?s not what happened.

Avery Franz, a senior triple jumper under my instruction, was disqualified from his primary event after taking an event-winning jump on his first attempt in finals.

In preliminaries, the event officials made a series of decisions that ultimately led to the ruling to remove Avery from competition. In no way was Avery to blame. He followed the instructions of the event officials and was penalized for it.

In this case a rulebook decision was made. But it wasn?t the right decision. The right decision would have been to make the ruling in the favor of the kids who were competing. To set pride aside and prove to the young men involved that the weekend really was about them.

The right choice would have been to take 10 jumpers to the finals, rather than nine, and allow the kids to jump it out and determine the rightful champion.

Avery?s first jump in finals proved he deserved the title. If allowed to continue, that one jump would have earned him a top finish. Instead he wasn?t even allowed to compete.

As adults, especially when we are dealing with youth, we have to be aware of the consequences our choices have on others. In this case, dreams were crushed.

But our school and community have every reason to be proud of this young man. Every time he came to practice or competed at a meet, he represented our district well.

Even when he knew his state title hung in the balance?that his fate was in the hands of the Games Commission?he displayed the great character that has been instilled in him.

Avery is an outstanding track and field athlete. He set goals at the beginning of the season and worked hard to achieve them. He didn?t complain. He did all that I asked of him. He fought through illness and came out strong at the end of the season.

He did everything right. And he did it with class. I can?t say enough how proud I am of Avery. It has been a privilege to coach him.

While all of us involved with the Hillsboro track and field program were saddened by the events of the weekend, we will all move forward, Avery included.

The way isn?t always easy, but I have confidence Avery will come out on top. He will go on to achieve great things, and will continue to be a class act.

Because that?s the kind of champion he is.

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