Relay foursome hopes Hershey’s meet a sweet deal

Ian Franz is no stranger to big-time track and field competitions.

The 13-year-old St. Michael’s School student has been to the Hershey’s National Track and Field Championships twice in the past three years.

He’s hoping his past experiences in the sprints will help him get to nationals in another event – the 400-meter relay.

“I feel very confident of the relay,” said Franz, who will be an eighth-grader in the fall. “Everyone on the team is very fast.”

Franz, who also will compete in the 200-meter dash, will be one of nearly 800 kids ages 9 to 14 competing at today’s Hershey’s Track and Field state finals at South Sound Stadium. Opening ceremonies begin at 9 a.m. and the competition begins at 10 a.m.

To get to the national meet in Hershey, Pa., on Aug. 1, athletes must finish first in their events and their times and marks will be compared with others from across the Pacific Northwest region. The region includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, and British Columbia.

Just two months ago, Franz and his friend and teammate, Lane Russell, wanted to start a 400-meter relay team. They only needed two other runners.

That’s when 14-year-olds Andrew Brown and Mason Smith – friends of Russell at Bush Middle School – entered the picture.

“We thought it would be a lot of fun to do a relay together,” Franz said. “It’s one thing to go as individuals, but to go with a relay team, that would be awesome.”

As a 10-year-old, Franz took third at nationals in the 100, and last year as a 12-year-old he finished fourth in the 200.

Franz is hoping his experience at the national level can help carry the relay team, too. Their best time is just under 51 seconds.

Those selected for the national meet on Aug. 1 get their flight, meals and lodging paid for by Hershey’s.

“Hershey rolls out the red carpet for these kids,” said Jeannette Sieler, recreation supervisor for Lacey Parks and Recreation and assistant chairwoman for the state finals.

Admission to today’s meet is $5 for adults. Children 18 and younger are free.

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473