At meets leading up to and at the start of the Section XI Indoor Track State Qualifier at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood on February 12, Southampton senior runner Isabella Franz was known simply as “the girl from Southampton.” By the end of last week’s meet, though, everyone knew who Isabella Franz was.
Franz won the 600-meter run in a personal best 1:40.49, about a second ahead of Sachem East senior Laurie Semetsis, to win the county title and earn a trip to the New York State Indoor Track Championships, which are being held on March 2 at Cornell University. Franz’s time was also almost two seconds better than her seeded time, and she is undefeated in the last four meets.
“I wanted this really bad,” she said, in between deep breaths. “I ran in the snow, I ran in the hallways at school, I did stairs.”
Franz trailed Semetsis for much of the race, but she never gave up. “I said to myself in the race, ‘I have to hold this. I can’t slow down.’” And that’s exactly what she did. In fact, she got faster and powered past Semetsis in the final 50 yards to take the victory.
Southampton head coach Eddie Arnold couldn’t be more proud of Franz. Arnold said he’s never had an indoor track county champion in his 11-year coaching tenure and he thinks it’s quite possible that Southampton has never had one, although he couldn’t officially confirm that.
“I can honestly say that the commitment and dedication got her to the next level to be the county champion,” he said. “She was in the weight room every day and she stuck to the game plan.
“She’s just an amazing athlete,” Arnold continued. “We trained together like she was my gym partner and every exercise there was no quit. For her to beat girls from schools like Sachem East, Hauppauge, Bay Shore … it’s just amazing.”
Arnold was also impressed by the fact that Franz had been running in the 600-meter race for only a few meets. She competed in the 1,000-meter race for three-quarters of the season, but since her splits were so fast, Arnold decided to drop her down to the 600.
“She doesn’t like speed, she doesn’t like it all,” he said. “The reward was a great risk for her, but she’s never trained this hard. She’s that kind of kid though, that old-school type of kid who will do anything for her coach.”
Emma Gallagher of Garden City, an All-American runner, is the favorite to win the 600 upstate, so Franz is looking to improve upon her state qualifying time and do the best she can.
“I’m hoping that Isabella inspires our program and shows the other athletes what hard work gets them,” Arnold said.
Two Boys At State Quals
Southampton had two boys at the State Qualifier in Joe Strassfield and Keaton Laub. Strassfield, a sophomore, finished the 55-meter dash prelims in 6.82 seconds and qualified for the finals, but was not able to finish in the top six.
He also ran in the 300-meter dash with Laub, a junior. Laub finished seventh overall in the prelims in 39.02 seconds while Strassfield finished 11th overall in 40.97 seconds. Neither made it to the final race.