Franklin finds place as hurdler at GVSU
GVL / Robert Mathews
Junior sprinter Kalena Franklin of the Grand Valley State University women’s track team has come a long way since walking on to the team as a freshman.
Franklin, who was one of six Lakers to receive two All-America plaudits at the NCAA Track & Field National Championships last season, did not always thrive as a collegiate athlete.
“I was reckless,” she said. “I wasn’t focused as a freshman. I was getting into some trouble outside of track and didn’t get along with the coach.”
The turning point for Franklin was when she decided to get involved with on-campus organizations.
“I wanted to meet people,” she said. “I started to get involved in the African Student Council and salsa dancing. I wanted to meet people, and was able to connect with just about anybody.”
Once Franklin found her place socially, her athletic career began to take off. Her team-oriented philosophy ultimately brought her to where she is today.
“I run better when I run for my team,” she said. “Everyone gets tired or weak, but when you’re running for other people — anything can happen.”
Sprints and hurdles coach Keith Roberts Jr. said this mentality doesn’t end with Franklin, it spreads to the whole team.
“Kalena is able to build off the people around her to represent Grand Valley with a lot of pride,” Roberts said. “She competes her hardest no matter who she is up against, and her competitiveness and confidence spreads to her teammates. She wants to be the best across all divisions.”
After overcoming a concussion early in her career, Franklin excelled as a sophomore. Her competitive nature fueled her as she finished outside the top 10 only three times in 16 events last season.
“I leave everything on the track,” she said. “I finish hard. If I see you ahead of me, I’m going to catch you. I am very confident with who I am as a sprinter and as a person.”
Franklin had a big day for GVSU at the Laker Early Bird. In the 60-meter hurdle, she won first place with a time of 8.64 seconds — good enough for a NCAA provisional qualifying mark. She also placed second in the 300 meter dash with a time of 41.07 seconds.
In the 4×400 meter relay, she and teammates Lisa Galasso, Brittney Banister and Andrea Kober finished in third place with a time of 3:54.65.
“Some people get nervous or scared before events,” she said. “But I work hard in practice. I don’t know how my opponents prepare, but I know how I prepare. I won’t allow nerves to impact my performance.”
Franklin’s performance in the Laker Early Bird earned her the GLIAC Track Athlete of the Week award.
“She’s got a big laugh,” Roberts said. “And whenever she does something, she wears it. It’s fun to see her excel.”
The Lakers will compete in the their final event before winter break at the GVSU Holiday Open, which will be Dec. 14 at 3 p.m.