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One by one, Harlingen High speedster Faith Franklin picked up a T-shirt emblazoned with a college logo and turned to the hundreds of friends, family members, staff and more in the school cafeteria for this monumental moment.
There was Arizona State, Baylor, Clemson, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt, among others. They were some of the powerhouses on the heavy recruiting path for Franklin, the ones who at least made it this far.
When she picked up an A&M hat and put it on, the cheers began.
But, nope, that wasn’t it, either. She went over, grabbed the black shirt of Vanderbilt University and put it on, officially letting everyone know she was Nashville-bound.
It had to be tough for her to stretch out the moment considering that’s the opposite of what she does on the track, ending races in times that have earned her the Valley record in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes.
“I figured I wanted to be different. I like to be different or unique,” Franklin said through her patented bright smile. “I haven’t seen it done in the Valley, and I had the opportunity to be different and do it.”
Last year, the then-junior qualified for the UIL Class 6A state championship meet in the same three events, winning regional titles in the 200 and 400. At state, she earned a silver medal in the 400, an event in which at one point last year she held the second-fastest time in the nation. She also captured ninth in the 100 and eighth in the 200.
After battling a painful hamstring injury for a month prior to the state meet, Franklin wasn’t sure she could make it through all three events. The fact that she did is a testament to her constant perseverance, said her coach, Hickel Woolery. He told her she wasn’t done yet.
“She doesn’t quit. She won’t quit — don’t ever quit,” Woolery said directly to Franklin in his remarks during the ceremony.
The Vanderbilt women’s track team is coming off one of its best appearances at the NCAA Division I outdoor track and field championships in June. The Commodores captured multiple medals and finished tied for 20th with 13 points, their best score since 1997.
Woolery said another important aspect for Franklin in making her decision was academics. She’s a star in the classroom as well as on the track, and he recalled at least one occasion where, after hours at the track during regionals, Franklin was leaving. He asked her where she was going.
“I’ve got to get back. I’ve got homework to do,” she said.
“Without the grades, she wouldn’t be going to Vanderbilt,” he said.
Franklin said she will be studying microbiology after she gets through her prerequisites and is thinking about dental school in the future.
“But I am interested in all of the sciences,” she said.
Franklin shared with those in attendance her favorite bible verse, from Joshua 1:9, which says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
“My best friend showed it to me and it really spoke to me,” she said. “I’m filled with anxiety at times and get easily frightened. That happens to be my favorite verse.”