A state title for Franklinton High at long last

tstevens@newsobserver.comMay 26, 2014 

The Franklinton High School cornerstone was laid in May 1923 and the school opened the following fall on Sept. 11, 1924.

From that day until May 10, 2014, the boys and girls at the school, and at the all-black B.F. Person-Albion High before integration, had never won a state high school athletic title.

Senior Charity Snelling broke the string by clearing a bar 5 feet, 5 inches off the ground to win the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A girls’ high jump.

Snelling didn’t know about the 90 years of frustration until after her championship. She walked taller and prouder after Franklinton girls’ track coach Trent Sanders told her of the magnitude of her accomplishment.

“I had no idea,” she said. “To be the first one and to have a girl win the first championship. It is just amazing.”

There is no easy answer to the Rams’ futility.

Tommy Piper, a former Franklinton High football coach and now an assistant superintendent of Franklin County Schools, said winning a state title is tough.

“You’ve got to get the right players with the right attitudes with the right coaches at the right time. And you probably need a little luck,” he said. “I suspect there are plenty of your smaller schools who have never had a state champion.”

Lester Wilder knows all about the luck factor. He graduated from B.F. Person-Albion High in Franklinton in 1967 and he has coached girls’ basketball at the now integrated Franklinton High for 38 years.

He said if it wasn’t for bad luck, the school would have no luck.

In 1993, for example, his girls’ basketball team lost to Monroe, 54-42, in the 2A championship game. The Rams started three sophomores and two juniors and the future seemed bright.

“But every bit of luck we had the next two years was bad,” he said. “If it could go wrong, it went wrong.”

Standouts Latisha Crudup and Lateshia Nicholson both had career-altering knee injuries.

Fred Bibby, the older brother of former NBA point guard Henry Bibby and major league pitcher Jim Bibby, said the Person-Albion basketball team he played on should have won the 1A championship in 1959-60.

“We were 25-0 and nobody had come close,” said Fred Bibby, a 35-year high school coach now in Richmond, Va. “Know why we lost? Our point guard, Hubert Yarborough, got his finger cut off the night before the semifinals. He was all of 5 foot, but nobody could stop him. He got hurt and we lost in double overtime.

“Just bad luck.”

Wilder is a year older than Henry Bibby, who later led UCLA to three NCAA basketball championships and played and coached in the NBA. Wilder’s junior year in 1966 the basketball team averaged 101 points per game and was a title contender before losing in the regional to eventual 1A champ Durham Little River.

Looking back, Wilder said Franklinton should have picked up some basketball or baseball state titles while the Bibby boys were in school. The teams were close and hard working. The Bibby boys worked on a farm all day every day, but put up a light to play at night with all the neighborhood boys.

“We had a basketball goal in the back and a baseball diamond in the pasture,” Fred Bibby said. “Everybody came to play.”

Wilder said Person-Albion had great teams that always seemed to have a bad game at the wrong time.

“For whatever reason, it seems like we’d be playing great and then have one bad game,” Fred Bibby said.

There have been other great players through the years, but never quite enough at one time.

But this year, it took just one.

“I’m just really proud to have won,” Snelling said. “It is good for the school, good for our community. It feels great.”

Stevens: 919-829-8910

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