Shaun Stanley/Durango Herald
Shaun Stanley/Durango Herald
With a 3.8 grade-point average and a stint as student council executive secretary and treasurer among other academic and extracurricular pursuits, one Durango High School senior landed a scholarship to Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Being one of the region’s best volleyball players didn’t hurt, either.
McKenna Franzen, fresh off helping DHS back to state and earning first-team All-Southwestern League honors, committed to play volleyball at Metro State this fall.
But, unlike many of her incoming teammates, her scholarship isn’t for athletics but academics, surely appealing to the Metro State coaching staff, which knows Franzen is taken care of without having to commit one of a limited amount of athletic scholarships to her.
“I think it’s really rewarding, and I’m really proud of my accomplishments and how dedicated I’ve been in the classroom,” she said. “And I think an academic scholarship is more rewarding than an athletic scholarship because if I were to get hurt for whatever reason, I wouldn’t necessarily lose my scholarship.”
Franzen is no slouch on the volleyball court, either. After a second-team All-SWL performance as a junior, Franzen, an outside hitter, took a big jump as a senior, leading the SWL by averaging 4.7 kills per set. Her .220 attack percentage was fourth in the league, and she totaled 279 kills, 47 blocks and 236 digs.
The recruiting process began the summer between junior and senior year while Franzen played with the Four Corners Volleyball Club. Initially, Franzen entertained the idea of matriculating somewhere in Washington state, but overtures from Colorado Mesa, Fort Lewis, Metro State and several other NAIA, Division III and junior college programs soon stemmed that tide. An email followed by a solid club performance caught the eye of the Roadrunners’ staff, and the process accelerated from there.
“We decided to narrow down the spectrum a little bit, and Metro just ended up being a perfect fit for me,” said Franzen, who thanked former coaches Robin Oliger, Terene Foutz, Anna Mekeel and Ron Becker and her grandparents for helping get her to this point.
Franzen made official visits, with her first trip to Metro State a skills camp in which she practiced with the team. The third visit really seemed to seal the deal for the soon-to-be former Demon.
Oliger said Franzen’s improved defense and work ethic should allow her to fit in at one of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference’s top programs.
“I think she will be able to contribute,” the longtime DHS head coach said.
Debbie Hendricks, the Roadrunners’ head coach agrees.
“McKenna is one of the most well-rounded players we are bringing in with this class,” Hendricks said in a news release. “She does everything well. She has excellent ball control and is a smart player at the net.”
“Her defense really improved last year, and I think that’s a plus for her as well, and McKenna’s not afraid to work hard,” Oliger said.
That hard work should help her maintain the 3.3 GPA she needs to retain her scholarship while pushing her toward her chosen field as she works her way through Metro’s honors program. Franzen said her outreach work as a member of the DHS student council gave her the itch to work in public relations and communications, and the school’s location in downtown Denver helped play a role in her final decision, too.
“Their volleyball program is really successful, and they’ve been top 10 in the nation for the past 12 years,” Franzen said. “So, primarily location because of what I want to major in – public relations and communications. Downtown Denver is perfect for me as far as internships go and job opportunities.”
Her parents, Gary and Regina Franzen, were, as expected, bursting with pride. And the proud papa was glad the decision to move from Denver to Durango in 1997 paid off as well as it did for his daughter.
“It’s just amazing watching her grow up and playing volleyball and develop as well as she did and do as well as she did in high school with volleyball, accompanied with her academic accomplishments has been amazing as a dad, for sure,” Gary Franzen said.
“She took it all upon herself to scout herself and put in the legwork behind that, and it paid off for her,” Regina Franzen said.
Now, all that remains is to finish out school and the track and field season before Franzen reports for duty with the Roadrunners on Aug. 1. And it’s then that she’ll do her best to ensure the lessons of a successful high school career – on the court and in the classroom – are put to good use.
“As an athlete, I think that I have grown not only with skills but with character. ... I think that my senior year when I became senior captain of the volleyball team was when I realized it’s not just about me, it’s about everybody else on the team,” Franzen said.
Steve Lewis/Durango Herald file photo