Alexis Franklin, 2012, Old Mill High School
by Katherine Dunn
As a little girl, Alexis Franklin always loved to run and jump, so it was only natural that she developed those skills at Old Mill to become one of the best hurdlers in Maryland high school track history.
Franklin dominated the hurdles in indoor track and outdoor track, winning six Class 4A state championships and, as a senior, breaking state records in the 100-meter hurdles and the 300-meter hurdles. She also won two state championships in sprints.
VSN’s No. 1 Girls Track Hurdler of the Decade polished off her career by winning the 400-meter hurdles at the Penn Relays in 59.05 seconds, the second fastest time in the country by a high school girl that season.
Franklin would go on to break Big Ten records at Ohio State and to compete in the 2016 Olympic Trials. Looking back on her high school career, she said winning the gold medal at Penn Relays stands out among all of her accomplishments at Old Mill.
“It was just amazing, because I knew what I was getting into going in and I was super excited,” Franklin said. “My college coach from Ohio State was there watching, because they were already done competing. The fact that I won, I felt like I’m proving how valuable I am going into the collegiate atmosphere. I had never run in front of so many people in my life. It was extremely, extremely rewarding, because I had set my true goal on wanting to win, so when it happened, it was beyond words. I was so excited.”
Franklin’s high school coach, Janet Liaamotta, was at Franklin Field in Philadelphia to watch her win.
“When she won the Penn Relays was so memorable, because they run the 300 hurdles in Maryland and this was the 400 hurdles and she got out and she made up the stagger on the first girl … and she was leading at the second and she was leading at third and I was down on the field when she finished. It’s so incredible, because that’s such a historic thing in track and field especially for high school athletes to win the Penn Relays and she had done it,” Liamatta said.
In Franklin’s spectacular senior year, The Baltimore Sun named her Performer of the Year in both indoor and outdoor track.
At the spring state championship meet, she set the state record of 41:31 seconds in the 300 hurdles and that remains the meet record. In the 100 hurdles, she set the state record of 13:70 in the Class 4A East Regional championships. Both of those times now rank third in state history.
At the state indoor track championships, she won the 300 and 500-meter run events. Unfortunately, the 55-meter hurdles final, which she won as a junior, came just 10 minutes after the 500 where she needed her late kick to make up about 10 yards. She said that left her spent and she finished sixth in the hurdles.
In the Anne Arundel County championships that year, Franklin won four events indoors and set meet records in the 55 hurdles, the 300 meter and the 500 meters. Outdoors, she won the 100 hurdles, the 400 hurdles and the 400-meter dash after setting meet records in all three earlier in her career.
“She’s the best athlete I ever coached in track and field,” Liiamotta said.
“She was truly a natural. She had the most perfect form and she was coachable. Trying to figure out how to pick up a few seconds, especially in the 300 hurdles, teaching her how to run a diagonal across the lane and those kinds of things. She learned from her mistakes… but she was never a prima donna.”
Franklin began her hurdling career in middle school in Allen Park, Michigan near Detroit. In sixth grade, she tried out for the track team and coaches encouraged everyone to try different events, so she decided “to try to jump over this barrier thing.”
She liked the instant gratification of clearing the hurdle and her coach noticed right away how easy it was for her.
“He was like, ‘We’re going to have you do hurdles, because you’re going over them like they’re nothing,’ and I was like, ‘Man, this is fun, so, sure, why not?’ Ever since the sixth grade, I really enjoyed running and jumping over hurdles,” said Franklin, who is not related to McDonogh’s Autumne Franklin, VSN’s No. 2 Hurdler of the Decade and a top rival at many big high school meets.
At Old Mill, Alexis Franklin was an All-Anne Arundel County selection as a freshman and a state champion as a sophomore. She excelled just as quickly in college, winning the 400-meter hurdles at the Big Ten championships and earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors.
An eight-time second-team All-American at Ohio State, she won the Big Ten championship in the 400 hurdles three times and broke the meet record with a 55.66-second finish as a senior. That time qualified for the 2016 Olympic Trials.
At the trials in Eugene, Oregon, Franklin finished 15th in the semifinals from an original field of 29 hurdlers. She said she was nervous running in front of a big crowd and on national television, but she wouldn’t trade the experience.
“I enjoyed having the opportunity to run with the best in the country from all levels. It was unbelievable. You have college athletes and you have professionals. To even say that I’ve been on the same stage with any professional athlete as a college runner is an accomplishment that I’ll forever be grateful for having.”
After the trials, she decided she no longer wanted to compete. Instead, Franklin, 27, is back in Ohio, concentrating on her career in the health field. She works as a patient access coordinator scheduling radiation oncology appointments at James Cancer Hospital in Columbus. She has also worked as a nurse’s assistant and is considering becoming a surgical assistant.
Franklin said she had the chance to run professionally right after college but opted not to.
“At the time that sounded fantastic,” said Franklin, “but I knew of some fellow teammates that decided to run pro and how they were doing things and I didn’t know if I really wanted to do that. College for me was meant to be fun. I’m sure it’s meant to be that way professionally, but I love the sport too much to get myself burnt out on it and not love it because I’m doing it as a job. I don’t run much anymore, but I love to watch the sport.”
Pictured above: Alexis Franklin during her Gold Medal performance in the4 300 hurdles at the 2012 Penn Relays. It remains the most cherished achievement during her highly decorated high school career at Old Mill. (Photo courtesy of John Roemer)
Editor’s Note: High school statistics and records according to MileSplit.com. College statistics and accolades according to Harvard athletics and TFRRS.