Varsity Q&A: Alexis Franklin, Old Mill, track and field

Penn Relays

Alexis Franklin is one of the most successful track and field athletes in Old Mill history. This year, the senior ran the fastest times in the entire country for the 400-meter hurdles (59.05 seconds) and the 300-meter hurdles (41.49 seconds).

Those times came while winning the 400 at the prestigious Penn Relays in Philadelphia and the 300 at the Bob Golliday Invitational at Old Mill. The 300 time is also believed to be the fastest time ever run in the event in Maryland. But, to have it count in the state record book, she will have to do it again at the state meet, May 25-26.

Wednesday, Franklin went into the Anne Arundel County championships holding meet records in the 100 hurdles (13.86), 300 hurdles (42.6) and 400 dash (54.16). She won the 100 and 300 hurdles and the 400, reducing her record in the 300 to 42.43 seconds. The Patriots finished fourth, with Franklin accounting for nearly half of their 78 points.

"She was gifted at birth," Old Mill coach Janet Liimatta said. "She has natural ability, she works hard and, on top of it, she's a wonderful teammate.

"At a recent meet I had a ninth grader tell me she basically didn't want to run a relay because she was too good to be part of it. I told her that was funny, because in the years Lexi has been here she's never once told me she didn't want to run something because she was too good — and she's by far the best athlete we have. Unlike some private school competitors, who concentrate on one event and only run one, Lexi runs four events and she's always willing to do it."

Franklin has a 3.75 GPA, will attend Ohio State on a track scholarship next year and plans to study exercise science with an eye toward physical therapy.

Has track always been your favorite sport?

In middle school I tried every sport until I found what I liked. I liked running. I've liked running ever since I was a kid — and I was good at it. .

Have people told you you were good at it from the time you were little?

No. It was when I got to high school, my freshman year that people started to notice I was fast. My family moved here from Michigan. I was new in school and people I didn't know would say, "Oh, you're that fast freshman." They just knew me as a fast girl on the track, and I'd say, "Yeah, that's me."

When you won the 400-meter hurdles this year at the Penn Relays, was it the first time you'd won there?

This is the first year I really feel like I won. Two years ago I was fifth overall and last year I was second, but I was the first American to cross the finish line, so I got a watch. This year, I was first overall. And I got faster, which is exactly what I wanted to do.

How do you get faster?

I don't know how, exactly. Yes, practice helps, but that's not all of it. I think, really, it's my drive to win. Wanting to win so bad, I'm pushing myself harder. I was seeded second at the Penn Relays and everyone expected me to finish second. But I left the competition in first place. The second seed motivated me. My response was, "I want to show everyone I can win."

Was that part of what happened at the Golliday Invitational, when you hit a hurdle? Your coach said she couldn't believe your time when she heard it because she saw you 'clobber' the hurdle.

When I hit that hurdle, I just felt I had to be aggressive through the rest of the [race]. I think hitting that hurdle cost me maybe two-tenths of a second. I felt if I hadn't hit it I would definitely have hit 41 flat.

What did it mean to you to win at the Penn Relays?

It's my biggest accomplishment. It's one of my highest goals that I've met, and it probably still hasn't really sunk in. I'm more than proud of that than anything. I'll talk to anyone about it who is willing to listen. I won, and it was the best time in the country.

Do you expect to be able to hit that time again?

I do expect to hit it, at least again and repeatedly. If I'm capable of hitting that time, I'm capable of hitting it again.

There is another successful runner in the area, Autumne Franklin from McDonogh. You two have the same last name. Do you know her?

Everyone ties us together because we're the state's top 2 hurdlers. I know her, but we're not related. I've known her since my freshman year. We've been gunning for each other. Each year we run the Pikesville Invitational. It's a big deal, an invitational race. This year, I lost the 300 meter hurdles to her. Then we got to the Penn Relays and I took it and she got third.

Are the two of you friends?

We're friendly, yes. Others make it out to be very intense between us. But, off the track I have many friends. On the track, I think of you as an enemy. I feel that's how every good athlete feels about their sport.

With your recent win at the Penn Relays, this might seem an obvious question, but maybe you have an unexpected answer. What has been your best experience as a runner?

My first experience at the Penn Relays, as a freshman on one of our relay teams. There were so many people there, 23,000 people. Running in front of that big a crowd — Wow! I thought, "Everyone will see me run." I couldn't wait to do it or do it again.

What's been your worst experience?

Losing the Pikesville Invitational to Autumne. Only because I knew that was the last time I'd be running against her. It was something that meant a lot to me. We push each other. It's been great.

After winning at Penn, how do the county, regional and state competitions stack up? Can you get excited about them?

They're just as important. I'm going to go into those meets nervous. I feel I can win or be beat every day. I don't have a pretentious bone in my body. But I want to give them something to look at. I want to break records. ... It's kind of the goal at every meet. I want to break every record — even if it's my own.

Besides setting records, are there any other goals left?

I've really met all my main goals in high school. Winning at Penn, going for the state record; I feel I've done all I can do. I'm excited to go off to college and I've been shooting for the 2016 Olympics ever since I knew about it.

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

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