Back in 2010, when Center Grove was still the undisputed king of Johnson County swimming, Franklin sophomore Alex Grissom got a little annoyed that the Trojans were carrying around a wrestling-style title belt as they racked up one sectional championship after another.
So Grissom decided to craft a talisman of his own, a heavy chunk of twist link chain with a blue wooden “F” hanging from it.
The Grizzly Cubs won their first boys sectional title three years later, and the chain has been omnipresent ever since.
It has become a badge of honor in the Franklin boys program — only swimmers who win county, conference or sectional championships are allowed to wear or even lay hands on it.
When Jacob Destrampe won the 200-yard freestyle final at Saturday’s state meet, becoming the first Grizzly Cub to ever win an individual state swimming championship, IHSAA rules prohibited him from bringing the chain up on to the podium. But it made an appearance on the IU Natatorium pool deck anyway; just about every picture that was taken after the meet of Franklin swimmers holding their state runner-up trophy also had the chain in it somewhere.
Some may believe it’s more than coincidence that the Grizzly Cubs had the biggest weekend in program history right after Grissom, the maker of the chain, showed up to address the team last Thursday. And I can understand why they might believe that. The chain carries a lot of weight, figuratively and literally, at Franklin.
But I know better. When athletes reach previously unscaled heights, it’s not because of some mysterious external force. It’s because they found the right combination of talent and hard work — and sometimes good luck — at the right time. And this team had the talent and put in the work.
Sure, Franklin didn’t beat Carmel, or even come close. But in all fairness, this year’s pack of Greyhounds might rank among the best high school swim teams in the nation’s history — so you’ll have to forgive the Grizzly Cubs for treating second as if it were first. Their performance this past weekend could have gotten them a championship in almost any other state across the country.
Such accomplishments were unimaginable when Grissom crafted that chain eight years ago, or even when Franklin broke Center Grove’s sectional stranglehold in 2013. Now, thanks to this year’s team, none of the goals this program sets in the near future will feel out of reach.
The chain was crafted out of frustration, but it has since become a symbol of victory, of conquest.
Saturday might not have resulted in a team championship for the Grizzly Cubs, but their performance represented a conquest nonetheless. If ever there has been an effort worthy of that chain, this was it.