Nathan Franz was introduced to the Rigby High School track program long before he started competing for the Trojans.
He has older brothers Justin (2011 Rigby graduate) and Noah (2015 Rigby graduate) to thank for that. Both became throwers for Rigby, both reached the 4A state meet and both placed (Justin took third in shot put as a sophomore, fourth in shot put as a junior and won discus as a senior while Noah placed eighth in shot put as a junior and placed second in shot put as a senior). Justin also went on to compete for Idaho State, winning shot put at the 2017 Big Sky Conference Indoor championships and reaching the NCAA Division I West Region Championships in the 2017 outdoor season.
It all came full circle toward the end of Nathan’s high school career when Justin and Noah began collaborating with Rigby’s throwing coaches to help instruct the younger brother who grew up watching them throw.
“I was always at the track watching them,” the younger Franz said. “When I was in middle school, I was looking up to the kids in high school. I remember at the football games, I’d get rocks from under the stands and throw them like a shot put. They are definitely part of the reason I started doing it. Justin’s a big help and so is Noah.”
Franz did his name and Rigby’s throwing program proud in his final season in maroon and gold. He placed in the top three all season in discus, surpassing 167 feet three times and attaining a personal best 173-0 at the 5A District 5-6 championships. Like Rigby teammate and fellow Division I track signee Mateya Mobley, Franz went undefeated in shot put as a senior. He surpassed 60 feet five times, including winning Tiger-Grizz with a personal best 61-10 that put him at No. 38 in the U.S. per athletic.net as of May 31. He also won shot put at the Nike Boise Relays and YMCA Invitational, swept throwing titles at the Tiger-Grizz Invitational and 5A District 5-6 championships and claimed the gold medal in shot put and silver medal in discus at the 5A state championships.
For ending the season with Idaho all-classification athletic.net No. 1 marks in both boys throwing events--both of which area coaches agreed are the best marks seen from a District 6 boy in a long time--Franz is the Post Register’s 2019 All-Area Boys Track Athlete of the Year.
James Parrish, Rigby’s head track coach since 2005, said Franz is in the top two or three boy throwers he’s seen from District 6 since he has been in eastern Idaho. While Franz is in rare territory as a thrower, Parrish said he is an even better person.
“There’s been some kids that strut and walk around like they’re everything, but this is the kind of kid that you want your daughter to bring home,” Parrish said. “We’ve had great shot putters some years, some great discus throwers. To have both in the same year, that’s rare.”
Franz is the first thrower to receive Post Register All-Area Track Athlete of the Year since 2017, when then Skyline junior Daniel Helsley was honored after sweeping 4A boys throwing titles at state. The two share similarities beyond their personal best marks and honors. Helsley, now at Weber State, graduated from Skyline with school records and personal bests of 172-4 in discus and 60-11.5 in shot put. The records Helsley broke were 27 years old, while Franz broke Rigby’s nearly 30 year-old shot put record.
Franz, who has gotten to know several area throwers throughout his career, said Helsley was a big influence on him and in a way, set the stage for his senior season. A year apart in school, Franz began his middle school and high school careers beating Helsley. By Helsley’s junior year, the head-to-head meetings started going to Helsley.
“I really wanted to beat him and stay a mark or two ahead of him,” Franz said. “I anticipated my junior year to be my really big year for throws, then I broke my foot. I kind of feel like this year was the junior year I could’ve had.”
Franz broke the same foot twice within a year. He was first sidelined toward the end of his junior season of basketball, and his doctors advised him to let the bone heal. His junior season of track was abbreviated, not starting until Tiger-Grizz in late April, but he reached his third consecutive state meet and placed third in shot put. In August, he broke the same foot again at the end of Rigby’s first football game. Knowing he wasn’t going to play basketball his senior year, he opted to have surgery as advised and spent three months in a boot.
“(The recovery time) was cutting it a little close, but it ended up being okay,” Franz said. “Throwing isn’t too hard on your feet.”
Parrish said Franz applied a positive attitude to every aspect of his recovery from surgery. By March, it was evident that the hardest part was over.
“He lived in the weight room, made sure his foot was taken care of,” Parrish said. “About the end of March, you could tell he surpassed it. He just believed that he did everything he was supposed to do. That’s why I think he’s gonna be so great at the next level: belief in himself and raw ability.”
Parrish anticipated Franz to break Rigby’s shot put record and approach the discus record owned by Clint Prestwich (176-4). Those predictions were almost spot on, as Franz broke the shot put record upon winning the YMCA Invitational in April with 60-3.75 and bettered it by more than a foot a week later at Tiger-Grizz. Both meets provided fond memories for Franz.
“A lot of the events were still going on once it got dark at YMCA,” Franz said. “Because it went so late, we threw under the lights. And I always tend to do well at Tiger-Grizz.”
Franz will be trading his maroon for blue, made official in January by signing with Utah State. His throwing will take a pause first, however, as he departs June 12 to begin his two-year Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints mission in Sacramento, Calif.
Parrish said Franz’s energy, love for his team and teammates and for Rigby will be among the things he will miss most about coaching him.
“That kid bleeds maroon,” Parrish said. “When Mateya got her (school shot put) record (at state), he was excited for her. There were little kids at state watching him saying, ‘I want to be like Nate.’ He definitely gets the energy going. That’s what’s so great about him. “
Franz credits track for teaching him to be calm under pressure and to be more lighthearted, something he’s seen play out in the ring when throwers tense up and don’t do well. He had ambitions of setting a state record and also claiming a state gold medal in discus, but said all in all, he had a great senior year.
As for closing this chapter, Franz confirmed Parrish’s sentiments about his career with the Trojans.
“I love cheering on my Rigby teammates when they get first,” Franz said. “It’s great to represent Rigby. Coach Parrish has built up an insanely good program.”