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By Tom Nader | Sports Editor
Watching Bridget Franek on the afternoon of June 3, 2006, will always remain one of the most incredible things I have ever seen.
On a warm day on the track of Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, Franek made Ohio high school history.
She eventually went on to become a Big Ten champion and Olympian, and continues to do amazing things to this day in her professional career, but I will always remember that day from eight years ago.
As a senior at Crestwood High School, Franek had qualified for the track and field state championships in four events: 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters, and she also ran a leg in the 4x800 relay.
On Friday, June 2, 2006, Franek and teammates Megan Miller, Nicole Cozzone and Cassandra Schenck won the state title in the relay.
For Franek, it simply set the stage for her performance the next day that awe-struck the entire state and a wave of pride for Portage County.
I was in Columbus for the entire weekend, with my main priority to cover the Windham Bombers baseball team. The Bombers had advanced to the Division IV state semifinal. They were scheduled to play on Thursday against Tipp City Bethel at the Columbus Clippers Stadium. Rain interrupted that original plan and pushed the Bombers’ game to Friday. More rain delays pushed back the start of Windham’s game, but eventually they played and lost 1-0.
It was an incredible game, and along with the weather circumstances, is a Tales from the Beat for another day.
The Record-Courier sports editor at the time was Tom Kessler, and I was scheduled to work the track and field state championships alongside him on Saturday.
In the morning hours, we met in the infield and mapped out our coverage plans for the day. Knowing that Franek was competing in three events, Kessler decided to focus all of his attention on her. I was to cover all of the other Portage County athletes competing that day, which would include a state champion for Field’s Chris Sinick in the 1,600 meters.
But while I was assigned coverage of everyone but Franek, I was still at the stadium all day and became overtook with emotion watching Franek run.
She became the first runner in Ohio history, in any division, to win the state championship in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters.
And she did it all in the span of just 1 hour and 15 minutes.
It was an unprecedented — and utterly amazing — performance.
First, Franek won the 1,600 meters, finishing the race in 4:56.17. Her junior teammate, Schenck, was second in 4:57.76 and Field’s Emily Grad finished third in 5:01.92.
Next, Franek won the 800 and won in a state record time of 2:11.22.
Lastly, Franek won the 3,200 meters in another state record time of 10:43.86. Again, Schenck was second at 10:50.45.
Following Triple Crown effort, Crestwood assistant coach Danneille Harrison said: “We jus saw the greatest day in distance running ever in the state of Ohio.”
The performances powered Crestwood to the Division II team state title.
Franek had 52 minute between the 1,600- and 800-meter races and only 13 minutes between the end of the 800 meters and start of the 3,200 meters.
Her record time in the 3,200 meters still stands to this day.
Standing atop the podium, Franek and the Red Devils were acknowledged by the entire stadium with an ovation of appreciation.
Since 2007, Mantua recognizes every June 3 as Bridget Franek Day.
Today, Franek lives in Eugene, Oregon, and is a member of the Oregon Track Club Elite as she continues her professional career. She qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.