Rantoul alum, former baseball coach Franzen eager to get going in new role with Spartans

ST. JOSEPH — Justin Franzen sat in his new office at St. Joseph-Ogden High School in late June. The white walls were mostly barren, save for a large Spartans flag and a sizable 12-month calendar.

The hallways were quiet, obviously, with the school year ending a month prior.

But Franzen's desk ... that was a different story.

Covered in Post-it notes and various important documents, it's clear Franzen is diving headfirst into his new role as SJ-O's athletic director.

And this was four days before he officially assumed the title.

"I'm definitely anxious just to jump in and see what it's all about," Franzen said. "You get your own system down — or at least I thought I had it down in Mahomet — and now I just want to do the same thing here."

The former Mahomet-Seymour Junior High assistant principal and athletic director is taking over for Brady Smith, who departed SJ-O for a job at Loman-Ray Insurance Group after two years overseeing Spartan athletics.

"I have some big shoes to fill," Franzen said. "Brady Smith was fantastic at what he did, and I know he's going to be missed tremendously."

Franzen brings plenty of knowledge to his new role, though — as an administrator and local citizen.

He served M-S for six years after attending Rantoul for his high school diploma, Illinois State for his bachelor's and the University of Illinois for his master's.

Franzen, along with wife Allison and sons Nolan (9), Brock (7) and Evan (3), has lived in St. Joseph for the last 11 years as well. He also coached the Rantoul baseball program for six seasons from 2005-11.

"I knew coming in that this was a special place, but I just admire all the people here," Franzen said. "There's just tremendous support, which I think is really fantastic."

The Spartan rooters have plenty to be happy about these days. SJ-O boasts one of the area's leading high school athletics programs, most recently winning a Class 1A girls' track and field state title and garnering two News-Gazette Athlete of the Year awards and two Coach of the Year honors in 2017-18 en route to being named the N-G's school of the year for the fourth straight year.

Franzen doesn't feel he needs to reinvent the wheel when it comes to helming the Spartans' sports scene.

"I think, honestly, I just want to listen. I want to listen to what works," Franzen said. "If something's not broken, then let's ... keep it the same, and (do) whatever we can do to make it better."

Though Sunday was his first official day as SJ-O athletic director, Franzen said he already hasn't seen much of a difference between his duties at M-S and his responsibilities with the Spartans.

One change, though, is being in touch with other schools and numerous event officials sooner and more frequently. Hence the bevy of Sticky Notes and other paperwork clouding his new digs.

That was something for which Franzen was prepared. Now, he just can't wait for the 2018-19 school year to start.

"Getting to know the kids, getting to know the staff is what I'm really excited about here," Franzen said. "Leaving (Mahomet), I knew everybody over there. You just felt really comfortable, and I'm just really excited to do the same thing over here."

clikas@news-gazette.com

Categories (4):Prep Sports, Baseball, Misc., Sports

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