Heber City Native Heads to Olympic Trials
A BYU track star who grew up in Heber City is having a busy month, competing in the NCAA national championships and Olympic trials.
Talem Franco graduated from Wasatch High School in 2013. After serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, he went to BYU to run the 1500-meter race. He is finishing his final season there now as a graduate student.
And he is going out with a bang.
Last week, he placed ninth in the national track and field championships in Eugene, Oregon.
Next week, he has a shot to qualify for the Olympic games. He earned a bid to the trials by posting one of the fastest times of any American in the past two years.
The 1500-meter is just under a mile in distance, and he came in at three minutes and 37 seconds a couple of months ago.
“This is my very first Olympic trials, so it’s kind of cool that I can compete in my senior year, supposedly in the best shape of my life,” Franco said. “It’s really cool to think that the accumulation of all my work can kind of show, hopefully, this next week as I compete in this tournament play.”
At the trials, former track medalists and rising stars like Allyson Felix and Trayvon Brommell will also compete for Olympic spots.
Only 30 runners make it to the trials in Franco’s event, and this was a particularly competitive year.
In past years, runners qualified by submitting their best times from the year leading to the trials. This year, because the games in Tokyo were rescheduled from last summer, runners could submit times from all the way back to 2019, making the field more crowded.
“I’m pretty ecstatic that I got selected because it’s a pretty cutthroat system, the track and field. You really have to run fast in order to show that you’re meant to be there, and I’m glad that I ran fast enough that that shows that I’m meant to be there. And I hope to prove that, too,” he said.
At the national championships race in Eugene, Oregon, Franco came in ninth.
He feels he is capable of an even better performance than his race there. He has posted better times recently, including one that was three seconds faster.
Though his body may want a bit more recovery time after running in four races last week, the biggest contests of his life are just a week away.
“So, it’s a very long tournament play, so you need a lot of tactical strength, plus a lot of resilience, cause it’s pretty much a war of attrition,” he said. “As any senior would look to envision themselves winning their last race and being able to deem themselves a national champion, I wasn’t able to do that. So, with all the circumstances and everything like that, it was a super fast year, like I said, so the fact that I was able to make it at such a high level and compete against all these high-caliber athletes was an immense blessing, and I’m hoping to kind of take that and learn from my mistakes and, hopefully, perform better at the trials.”
Of the 30 American runners competing in the 1500-meter, only three will make the Olympic team.
“I’m really looking forward to it. The fact that I am there means that I have a shot, and that’s really cool,” the Heber native said.
In other events, 11 of Franco’s teammates are competing in Olympic trials, too. Eight BYU men and four women, in total, have chances to represent Utah on the world stage in other track races, pole vault, steeplechase and javelin.
Franco completed his undergraduate degree in microbiology in April of 2020 and is interviewing to go to medical school.
The first of his qualifying rounds will take place next Thursday, back in Eugene, Oregon. The semifinal and final races will be held on Friday and Sunday.