By Christopher Tremblay
Each and every high school track meet consists of a total of 16 events. Franklin’s Jess Kroushl and Miranda Smith usually participate in upwards of 8 events for the Panthers; good thing the two athletes are able to score points in those events, or Franklin Coach Paul Trovato would be in trouble.
“Miranda and Jess are multi events athletes accounting for 50 percent of the events,” the coach said. “We are a very balanced team overall, but these two are our main scorers, and we rely on them heavily.”
Smith takes place in the javelin (10th in the league), the shot-put (3rd), the discus and the high hurdles, while Kroushl runs the 100m (last year’s Hockomock League Champion), the 200m (currently tops in the league), the high jump (5th) and the long jump (2nd).
With the rest of the team focused on the two scoring in each of their four events in order for the Panthers to be successful, it originally put pressure on the two.
“There was a lot of pressure on me, especially when the coach tells me right before my events that we need points,” Kroushl said. “I know that I need to be good for the team, but if I don’t perform up to my standard, I’m very hard on myself afterward.”
Smith agreed with her teammate.
“It put pressure on me to score in each event and at first I was scared and nervous, but now as a junior I’m used to it,” Smith said. “It’s not a big deal to step up in each event now. On the track, I try to leave everything out there and if I have a bad throw, I use it as motivation to drive me to do better.”
Both girls are juniors but came across track in a different way. Kroushl began running track in middle school while living in Lancaster Pennsylvania because she was interested in the sport. Smith didn’t join the track team until her freshman year at Franklin to stay in shape for soccer.
In Pennsylvania Kroushl chose to run the sprint events because she considered herself fast, but upon coming to Franklin she found she was faster than she originally thought.
“I started participating in the sprinting events because I tended to be faster than a lot of the boys at field day,” she said. “At my old school (Kroushl moved to Franklin her freshman year) there were a lot of kids my speed, but not so much here.”
Once Smith entered into track she found that she loved the sport and wanted to continue participating in order to win, not just stay in shape. That freshman year, she found herself to primarily be a hurdler, but not one of the best.
“I was far from being graceful at the beginning,” Smith said. “I use to fall so much that everyone eventually started laughing with me. The older girls on the team took me under their wings and started helping me (Smith recently posted her best time of 17.8 in the 100m hurdle).”
Her Coach believes she has drastically improved.
“The past two years, she has been one of our outstanding hurdlers,” Trovato said. “Nowadays, she’s a lot more fun to watch.”
In addition to running the sprints, Kroushl took a liking to the long jump, something the Franklin coaching staff pushed her to try.
“I was told to try the long jump one day because of my speed and the spring in my legs,” Kroushl said. “I liked it so much that during my sophomore year, I tried the high jump. I knew that I could jump because my mother was a high jumper, too.”
Kroushl’s best high jump is currently 4’ 11” – her mother’s best jump was 5 feet and the daughter is looking forward to the day she outjumps her mother’s record. In the long jump her best leap to date is 17’ 2 ½”.
Smith began throwing the shotput after she started participating in Heptathlon and Pentathlon with then senior captain Beth Neal.
“Coach wanted me to give the shotput a try, and like any other sport, I grew into it. At the beginning of the year, I was throwing 29’ but now I’m throwing 33’ 9”,” Smith said. “I eventually realized that if I put my mind to it, especially in the throwing events, I could be really good. Now I try to encourage the younger girls to throw.”
With her throw of 33’9” Smith broke the junior record at Franklin on 33’4” and has her sights set on the school record of 34’ 10”
As superior athletes for the Panthers both girls are also captains, an honor they truly take to heart.
“I was pleasantly surprised when I was named, but honored to do it for the team,” Kroushl said.
“I found it very gratifying that I could now give back to the young girls what was given to me,” Smith said.
As long as Smith and Kroushl continue to succeed in their events and the other Panther athletes hold their end of the bargain Franklin should once again be able to take control of the Hockomock League.
By Christopher Tremblay