In the last two seasons, Tori Franklin has elevated her triple jump PR a full meter and a half from 44-5¼ (13.54) to 48-8¼ (14.84) and the American Record last month in Guadeloupe. From 9th-placer at the ’16 Olympic Trials to runner-up at last year’s World Championships Trials to the top 2 performances on the American all-time list and 5 of the jumps in the ATL’s top 10, the rest of which belong to Rio 4th-placer Keturah Orji.
Behind many breakthroughs there is a backstory and ’15 Michigan State grad Franklin’s began with a chance meeting on a plane in the summer of ‘16 that led to her finding current coach Andreas Pavlou.
“I was on my way to the Olympic Trials,” Franklin says, “and I was sitting next to a man, John Sayre [an 8381 decathlete in the ’80s], and we just got to talking on the way there. I was telling him how I had been thinking about switching coaches, didn’t know where to go, and he was like, ‘Oh, I know a guy.
“I was like, ‘Really?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, he’s out of Chicago. And I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m from Chicago. That’s great.’ And so right before the plane lifted off, we sent Andy a text, ‘Do you know Tori?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, I’ve heard of her.’ And so by the end of the Trials, we planned to meet up when I got back home. And the rest has just worked out perfectly.
Perfectly, Pavlou says, once he had tested and assessed Franklin enough to allay his concern about her anemic 19-3¼ (5.87) long jump best. No athlete with that distance as her true upper limit is going to develop into an elite TJer. As Pavlou learned, Franklin merely hadn’t long jumped much in high school or college, and the coach says her stride pattern and running technique mostly reflected her 400 background (53.47 PR as a Spartan junior).
The Greek-born Pavlou, who coached Cayman Islander Troy Doris to Commonwealth Games TJ gold in March, decided Franklin was a protégé worth taking on.
“Andy and I have worked a lot on the way I run,” says Franklin, who at 25 is set to make the first Diamond League start of her career in Oslo on Thursday. “I used to run really flat, really low, crunching and things like that. And so I think, one, that’s really been a huge factor in how much speed I’m able to bring going into the runway. That’s also changed how I’m able to go through my phases, my contacts on the ground and all of that.
“And that took us months, like more than half a year, to try to figure out and help stick.”
Not that Franklin sees the program as a radical departure. “There’s a few drills that Andy and I do that I had never done before,” she says, “and I guess his way of—I think my college coach, she had the right idea, but the way that they execute it is different.”
As Franklin’s improved speed on the runway began to stick, she started sticking her biggest jumps when they mattered: 45-5¾ (13.86) to win the USATF indoor title last year, 45-3½ (13.80) for 2nd at the outdoor nationals, and then past both Imperial and metric barriers with 46-½ (14.03) in the World Championships Q round, the longest non-qualifier, an inch and a half from making the final.
A late add to the field who had not jumped the auto-Q mark, 46-10¼ (14.10), Franklin abandoned a Greek islands vacation early to jump at the Worlds. Pavlou says he knew he had a competitor on his hands when she fouled her first jump in London and then before her next attempt turned toward the Olympic Stadium stands and exhorted the crowd to rhythmic-clap for her. The result, the longest jump of Franklin’s life to that point.
This past indoor season kept up the big-jumps-at-big meets pattern—46-1¼ (14.15) at Albuquerque’s high altitude to repeat as USATF champ and another 46-½ (14.03) for 8th at the World Indoor—but nobody, not even Franklin or Pavlou, expected the full force of the outdoor boom she was about to make.
“I would not expect somebody to come to me and within 6 months to transform it,” says Pavlou. “I need a year and a half, 2 years, to start seeing the difference.” So, that time working with Franklin having elapsed, the coach proposed it was time to take a chance. Rather than take down time after the World Indoor, Pavlou suggested that Franklin “keep it rolling” into outdoors and hopefully get a PR or two early enough to get invited to IWC and Diamond League meets over the summer.
So Franklin “rolled” into the Texas Relays expecting a PR. “Theoretically going from indoors to outdoors, unless you’re a bounding guy who likes those elastic runways, I think anybody who jumps 14.15 indoors automatically, maybe with a little wind outdoors it’s like a 14.30.”
Franklin exceeded that, lifting her best by a foot and a half to 47-6¼ (14.48) with another leap of 47-1½ (14.36) in her series.
“I still have to control the speed,” Franklin says of the key contributing factor to her improved distances. “I am not at a point where I can just like go 100%.
“When I was in Mt. SAC in California [three weeks after Texas], I tried to just to blaze it down the runway and I wasn’t able to finish any jumps. I was losing control [and intent on challenging reigning AR holder Keturah Orji, who was in the competition] and that’s something that has become a new challenge with being able to adjust with the speed.”
As Franklin wobbled on the edge of control at Mt. SAC, Orji prevailed, jumping close to a foot farther than Franklin’s 46-¾w (14.04).
“Going into Guadeloupe, I knew I had to do something a little bit different than Mt. SAC,” Franklin says. “Otherwise I’d have the same result. So I tried to go back into the mindset that I had in Texas, which was really just to execute. I hadn’t competed since Worlds before Texas. And so I wasn’t really sure what was gonna happen at Texas. So my only goal was to just go out, execute, to have a good time, enjoy the sun. And I brought that same energy into Guadeloupe, just really focused on me and what I needed to do to have a good meet.”
Boy, did she: 6 jumps beyond her previous best with her second—48-8¼ (14.84)—past Orji’s AR. As T&FN reported by the time that mid-May weekend was over, despite a big performance by Orji at the SEC, Franklin owned jumps 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 11 & 18 on the U.S. ATL.
“She finally started putting the foot down and not reaching [to initiate her hop phase],” says Pavlou.
Franklin had narrowly fouled a leap of about 14.60 at the Texas Relays. Based on that, says the coach, “You knew that by the end of the year that [a legal jump that far] was going to happen somewhere. Now I’m talking 14.60, not 14.84. Nobody knew that was going to happen.”
But now that it has—and in a series that showed the mark was no fluke—Franklin says, “I’m really hoping to have me and Keturah both out there making finals, getting medals, really putting USA women’s triple jump on the map.
“I know that people in Europe don’t really see women’s triple jumpers from the U.S. very often and so it would be nice to get us out there.”
For the rest of the season, she says, “my goals are just to keep doing what I’ve been doing. I don’t have any distances or anything like that that I’m like gunning for. I just want to be consistent and stay healthy and just do what I’ve been doing and that’s what’s gonna keep me where I am, keep me at the top.”
The USATF Championships later this month should as never before showcase a pair of American women triple jumpers bounding out to world-class distances.
“I think it’s gonna be really fun,” Franklin says. “I’m gonna give Keturah some competition, she’s gonna give me some good competition and maybe get some spotlight on the woman’s triple jump for the first time. Yeah, that would be nice, so I’m excited for it.”