On Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, Council Rock South senior John Franco was recognized for signing a letter of intent to continue his track and field career at the University of Georgia. To view photos of the event, please visit the Photo Gallery at the following link: https://solsports.zenfolio.com/p626378838
John Franco – University of Georgia (Track & Field)
Final list of colleges: Georgia, Virginia Tech, University of Pennsylvania
Reasons for choosing Georgia: “The main focus with choosing Georgia was their athletic program. They have awesome facilities down there, and they recently got a new pole vault coach (Russ Johnson), who was a volunteer at Tennessee for about 12 years. He is now a full-time coach down there.”
What was the progression that led you to competing in pole vault at the collegiate level? “My sister (Dominique Franco) was the first pole vaulter in the family. She used to do gymnastics, and when she was going into high school her freshman year, the pole vaulting coach at Council Rock South got wind that she was a gymnast. Typically, ex-gymnasts go into either pole vaulting or diving, so she tried out pole vaulting, and my family discovered a club called Philly Jumps Club, and she went there for a few years. I used to get dragged to the practices all the time, so I was like, ‘I want to try this out’ because it looked pretty fun. Everyone was just throwing themselves in the air and having a good time.
“I started around the summer of seventh grade, so that’s pretty early. Before that, pole vaulting wasn’t very popular, but now it’s getting more popular, and more people are actually learning about it. I think a lot of that has to do with Mondo Duplantis because he was such a good pole vaulter at such a young age and got so much exposure for the sport. Around seventh grade in summer, I started pole vaulting. It wasn’t really too serious at first because I was also a football player at the time. It got to my freshman year in high school where I started to think – this might be something I wanted to pursue and do in college because freshman year I actually jumped 13-6 at the district meet, placing eighth, which is a crazy thing to do looking back on it. I actually decided to stop playing football and go all in on pole vaulting.
“The funny thing is – my dad is actually the offensive coordinator at Council Rock South. I think it was hard for him to bear at first – his only son doesn’t want to play football because that’s his heart and soul, but I think he got warmer to it, and he’s excited for what I have ahead.”
When did the idea of competing at the high Division 1 level become a reality? “I didn’t get too much exposure until the end of sophomore year and beginning of junior year just because the heights I was reaching weren’t anything for a college coach to be astounded by. Typically, with the SEC levels and the Power Five schools, they’re looking for 16- or 17-foot vaulters. Junior year in my spring season at the district meet, I wasn’t really planning on jumping 16 feet. My goal at the time was 15-6 just to qualify for outdoor nationals. It was just a really awesome day that I had. I started jumping 15, 15-6 and 16. Then I was trying to go for the district meet record, which I wasn’t able to obtain, but it was a great day all around. After that, a week later, which was states, I jumped 16 feet again and went up against an awesome competitor from State College, who had a PR at states, so it was great competition. That’s when I think a lot of the exposure happened. It’s very crazy to PR 16, and it’s even crazier to do it again the next week. I think that’s what really caught the eye of coaches.
“The first coach I was in contact with was the coach at UPenn. That was my top school at the time because of the great medical program they have. The second coach I started talking to was the Virginia Tech coach, and then finally I got in contact with the University of Georgia coach. I think what really set everything up were those back-to-back 16-foot jumps.”
CR South coach Paul Wilson says: “John had quite an indoor season. It’s a shame through no fault of anyone’s that he didn’t have an opportunity to continue into the spring, but what an indoor season he had. From a coaching standpoint, I have nothing to do with him in the pole vault. That is an event he has been coached by the Philly Jumps Club, and they do a wonderful job. They have done all of the coaching of John in the pole vault.
“All winter long but particularly at the state meet, John had just a wonderful attitude towards competing. I think he was energized – there were a number of athletes that also did very well. I think there were two boys that cleared 15-6, so it was a pretty good high school pole vault competition. At each of his heights at the state meet, he was able to clear on his first attempt, which puts the pressure on each of the other athletes to be able to do that to maintain their position with him. When the bar went to 16 feet, he cleared that on his first attempt – when they measured, it was actually 16 feet and a quarter inch. The other boys missed all three of their attempts, so his ability to clear on his first attempt put considerable pressure on the other young men in the event and, in addition to his talent, made the difference in him winning the event. It was impressive to watch.
“He has a very good relationship with his coaches at the Philly Jumps Club. They seem to understand what the best strategy for him would be, including his choice of poles, what size poles to use, when to move the standards up or back. They seem to do that very, very well.
“In the spring, he would have contributed in other areas to the track team. In the past, he has been a very valuable member of our 4x100 relay also running the 100. Georgia has a very strong program in track and a broad-based sports program. In track, they focus primarily on technical events, which would be the jumping events, decathlon and those sorts of things. When they bring in athletes at Georgia, they really just go for the top-notch athletes. Any kid who is able to compete at the Division 1 level is obviously a top-notch track athlete, but Georgia goes maybe a step above and probably does not have any walk-ons on their team. The members of their team are kids they have recruited, so they have a very small team but a very small team of elite athletes. The fact that he is going there says that they view John as an athlete who has the potential to score in their SEC championship and possibly at the national championship.”
Philly Jumps coach Brian Mondschein says: “One of the big head starts for John was that his older sister (Dominique Franco) was a really good pole vaulter in high school and then in college for Villanova, so he’s been around pole vaulting forever. He first came to Philadelphia Jumps Club as an eighth grader, and he this huge head start and early development. When he was an eighth grader, I would not have thought that he would grow into the man-child that he is. He’s a big boy, so it was a good combination of early development and athletic talent. On top of that, he’s a super hardworking kid.
“Even during this shutdown, his school’s track has remained open for public use, so he asked for a set of workouts, and he’s been out hitting it. He’s always trying to get better and is kind of hard on himself, which is good because he just keeps pushing himself to be better. I think it’s going to be a really good fit down at Georgia. They have a really good coaching staff there, and it will be a group of guys that will push him every day. He’s not really going to have a choice but to get better.
“The pole vault coach at Georgia (Russ Johnson) is the former pole vault coach at Tennessee, and when he was at Tennessee, he had some really amazing pole vaulters. He does a phenomenal job. I don’t know that there are many people whose resume looks as good as his, so John is going into really good hands. It will be exciting to watch.”
Favorite food: Sushi
Favorite TV show: American Horror Story
Favorite artist: Post Malone
All SuburbanOneSports.com articles (or portion of articles) can be turned into keepsakes. For information, please click on the following link: https://www.suburbanonesports.com/article/content/turn-online-features-keepsake-posters-0086874