Although Bella Franz had a successful high school track career at Southampton—having finished 10th in the 800-meter race at last year’s New York State Track and Field Championships—she was always nursing nagging injuries that never seemed to allow her to reach her full potential.
Running in college may have cured all ills for Franz, however. In her first year at Connecticut College, Franz has been able to stay healthy and it has led to her being one of the top young runners the college has had in quite some time. Franz competed in the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 800-meter run and finished in a school record 2:11.47 en route to a 10th-place finish at Ohio Wesleyan University on Friday night.
Franz was seeded 19th in the race and was able to jump nine spots, a feat her coach, Ned Bishop, said he was thoroughly impressed with. Her time was the second fastest in the country by a freshman in Division III.
Franz, who qualified for the NCAA Championships after placing fifth in 2:12.87 at the New England Intercollegiate Amateur Athletic Association Championship at Westfield State University on May 10, has also staked her claim to three other school records at Connecticut. She also holds the indoor 800-meter race school record at 2:14.46, she was part of the indoor distance medley relay, which set a school record in 11:54.79, and was also on the indoor 4×400-meter relay team which set the school record at 4:04.57.
And at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championship hosted by Nebraska-Wesleyan University in March, Franz, Amanda Jacobsen, Caroline Leonard and Kim Bolick placed 10th with a time of 12:06.69.
“Overall Bella’s had a phenomenal first year,” Bishop said. “She ran the distance medley relay back in March and had another 10th-place finish there, that’s something we’ve never had a freshman accomplish before. We couldn’t have asked for any more out of her.”
Franz said that she had to first get used to the rigors of running in college. She seems to have adapted well.
“It’s definitely been a huge change,” Franz said. “I got injured a lot in high school. Being a new runner, my body wasn’t used to the high impact of running.
“But by running in college I’ve been able to get my mileage up and it’s been a huge adjustment,” she continued. “I’ve learned a lot, both physically about my body, and mentally, with how much harder the workload is academically. I couldn’t have asked for a better first year and I’ve had a great time.”
Bishop said two things have led Franz to her early success in college: her love of the sport and staying healthy. “She lives and breathes track and field,” he said. “She’s a big fan of the sport, she’s so excited about it, and really, really wants to do well. That sets her apart from a lot of underclassmen that I’ve had over the years.
“And we’ve also built a relationship where she’s been able to communicate with me, where if something isn’t feeling right, we get it taken care of right away,” he added. “She hasn’t had to deal with some of the injuries she had in high school, so we’ve been able to keep her healthy consistently over a long period of time. And that’s really so important for any runner to be able do that.”
Going forward, Bishop would like Franz to set her goals higher, such as becoming an All-American, which she can do by finishing in the top eight of the NCAA Championships. Also, Franz ran cross country for just the second time ever this past fall and she worked her way up to being in the top six of the team. Bishop thinks she’s got the ability now to be in the top three. Franz, meanwhile, said she would like to improve her time in the 1,500-meter race, which is what she originally began running in this spring before eventually moving to the 800.
“Those are logical goals for us to work toward,” Bishop said.