Washington State track coach Rick Sloan has a nickname for freshman star Francesca Green.
He calls her Franchise.
That’s heavy expectation to lay on the WSU jumper/sprinter.
But Green showed Saturday, during the first day of the Pacific-10 Conference Track and Field Championships at UCLA, that she’s worthy of the title.
To put it in perspective, it is important to note that the entire WSU women’s team scored a total of 15 points at last year’s Pac-10 meet.
Saturday, Franchise Green scored 12 points by winning the women’s long jump (20 feet, 10-1/2 inches) and taking seventh in the high jump (5-7).
She also ran the second-fastest qualifying time in the 100 meters (11.65) and looks to be ready to score big in that event, as well.
“Fran has worked really hard and she expects to do well, she expects good things to happen,” Sloan said. “And it’s amazing how good things happen when you expect them to.”
Green, from Kennewick’s Kamiakin High, could have been excused if she entered the meet with a pinch of anxiety. Last week, at the Modesto Relays, she fouled three times and failed to mark in the long jump.
“Last week was a lot of frustration; I didn’t know what was wrong,” Green said.
What was wrong? The weather was nice and warm - a foreign climate for someone who has spent the spring in Pullman. Because she was looser, she was faster on the runway.
Helped by jumps coach Lissa Olson, Green found that she needed to move her starting point back nearly 8 feet.
“She was a whole stride off,” Olson said.
She was perfect on the board her first try, blasting a lifetime-best effort, a mark that was just a quarter-inch off Chantal Brunner’s school record.
Increasing the degree of difficulty for Green was the fact that the long jump and high jump were being contested at the same time.
“If anything, that might have taken away from her high jump a little, but we knew the long jump was the priority coming in,” Olson said, adding that Green’s uncommon maturity helped her cope with the hectic pace.
“She doesn’t let anything like the two events going at once bother her,” Olson said. “She’s the most mature freshman I’ve ever seen.”
Green’s time in the 100 was only .04 behind USC’s Tori Edwards. “The 100? Watch out,” Green threatened. “I’m right there. It’s going to be the best race of the meet.”
The WSU men scored well in the long jump, as Leo Slack took third at 25-0 and Hilary Mawindi took fourth at 24-8-1/2.
The competition was fierce as the lead changed three times in the fifth round, with California freshman Chris Ferreira finally winning when he improved his PR by 13 inches with a 25-6-1/4 leap.
In the final round, the top four jumpers all failed to hit the board. “I think we were all cranking up the intensity too much,” said Slack, who already has the conference decathlon title to his credit.
Sloan had expected to score well in the 800, with defending champ Eric Anderson being supported by Rasto Kiplangat and Ryan Ollerman.
Only Ollerman, however, advanced to the finals.
It was a sad moment for Anderson, who clocked a sizzling 1:47.38 in last year’s win. An injury to a tendon in his foot during the indoor season crippled his preparation for this meet.
“It would have been amazing,” Anderson said of the possibility of defending his title. “I put it in my mentality that I could do it, but with only 5-1/2 weeks of training, that would have been pushing it.”
Down the stretch, Anderson faded badly and finished seventh in his heat. “I just didn’t have the strength; when everyone else started to kick, I was just left behind.”
A consolation is that Anderson still has time to rehab his injury so he can compete in the Olympic Trials next month.
Cougars freshman Molly Moore, meanwhile, notched a fourth place in the javelin with a 138-11 mark.
Other than the 800, Cougars advanced into today’s finals as expected, Sloan said.
Another possible title for the Cougars could come today in the men’s 110 high hurdles, where Dominique Arnold has the second-fastest qualifying time (13.85). UCLA’s Kenny Aladefa (13.78) is clearly within reach, though.
“I’m thinking it’s going to take 13.50-something to win it and I’m ready for that,” Arnold said. “My start was kinda sluggish today because I was a little jittery; I pulled my hamstring in this race last year and I was thinking about that a little.”
Other Cougars scorers were Jeff Boag (sixth in the javelin at 196-3) and Brian Zieser (eighth in the pole vault at 16-4-3/4).
After eight events, the WSU men stand in seventh place with 44 points. After seven women’s events, the Cougars are seventh with 21 points.
One of the guttiest efforts of the day came from Oregon’s Matthew Davis, a Mead High graduate.
Davis repeated last year’s second-place finish in the 10,000. But this one was different. A floating object in his knee has caused him to have two knee operations this season - the last one just three weeks ago.
“It was my choice; I wanted to try to push the rehab as hard as I could,” Davis said. “I wanted to just see how well I could do and if it didn’t work at least I knew I gave it my best.”
Apparently, an unknown particle the size of a watermelon seed is still floating around in his left knee. During one surgery, the doctor had a grasp on it only to see it squirt away deeper into the knee.
“It could pop out tomorrow, there’s no way to know,” Davis said. “At least I know I did my best.”
Davis’ teammate Rob Aubrey, also a Mead product, took fifth in the steeple-chase.
Gonzaga Prep grad Justin Strand, competing at Stanford, placed fifth in the hammer throw with a 205-3 effort.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo