Flying under the radar no more, the youthful Franklin boys swimming team showed surprising depth, especially in the relays, as it edged the powerful host school and Shorewood in winning the 16-team Cedarburg Invitational on Jan. 2.
Sniffling his way through a cold, Sabers coach Ross Lennertz couldn't have been prouder as the win was a major reward for the Sabers' grueling two-a-day workouts over the break, which included 12,000-15,000 yards of swimming a day, along with weightlifting.
'We did decently at Cedarburg last year and also at the Shorewood (Invite), too,' he said, 'but we never felt we were on anyone's radar. We have a good team. We didn't lose much last year, and we gained a lot of tough freshmen. It was a really good showing.'
The Sabers scored 332 points to ease past Cedarburg (329) and Shorewood (323) for the title.
The meet was close throughout, said Lennertz, and he did a quick calculation in his head going into the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay.
'I thought if we were going to win the meet, we would have to win the relay,' he said.
The Sabers' alpha unit of freshman Jame Kostrzewa, senior Luke Gavronski and juniors Michael Fisher and DJ Nowacki couldn't quite come up with the win despite a scorching time of 3:20.4, which was good for second behind Cedarburg's 3:19.81.
But Lennertz still had an ace in the hole. Franklin has been known for some up-top firepower over the past few years, but what is separating this year's squad is the depth provided by those powerful freshmen, mostly trained at the Southwest Aquatic Team and Schroeder.
Three of those freshmen, including Lennertz's, brother Will, Justin Craig and Matthew Cheng, joined with junior Devin Watson on the 'B' 400 relay, which won its heat and earned a surprising fifth in 3:30.94, which was enough to provide the Sabers with the team title.
'That was their best time,' said coach Lennertz. 'It seems that depth had a very big hand in the outcome of the meet. With that in mind, we just want to keep looking forward.'
And that depth was key, as the Sabers won only one event at Cedarburg as Kostrzewa, Gavronski, Fisher and Nowacki cruised to the title in the title in 200 free relay (1:31.07).
Medals went to the top three in each event, however, and Franklin won a few of those along the way, too. Nowacki was third in the 200 free (1:48.29) and second in the 500 free (4:58.63), while Craig was third in the 100 backstroke (58.21).
Other top efforts for the Sabers included the following: diving: Lukas Migliano, seventh (328.0 points), Jared Klezka, eighth (322.85); 200 medley relay: Craig, Cheng, Will Lennertz and Watson, eighth (1:49.17); 200 individual medley: Will Lennertz, eighth (2:10.72); 50 free: Gavronski, fifth (23.08); 100 butterfly: Will Lennertz, seventh (57.45), Fisher, 10th (58.14); 100 free: Gavronski, fifth (50.71), Craig, seventh (51.72); 500 free: Watson, eighth (5:22.1); 100 backstroke: Kostrzewa, fourth (58.25); and 100 breaststroke: Fisher, fifth (1:04.1).
The Sabers' depth was impressive, said Shorewood coach Tom Miazga.
'Franklin had an incredible finish to the meet that took everyone by surprise,' he said. 'They silently took control of many events, and that 400 free relay showed where depth really matters.'
The depth is a by-product of a young team that is finding its identity quickly, coach Lennertz said.
'I've known these guys for a long time,' he said of the freshmen. 'It seems they've always been swimming with Will, and DJ (Nowacki) and Michael (Fisher) have also swam with them, too.'
Coach Lennertz wants to build on this success. They will be at that southside all-star meet, the South Milwaukee Rocket Invite, at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, and then will take part in the Shorewood Invite on Jan. 16.
'We know we'll see Muskego at South Milwaukee, and they've won that meet like 10 years in a row, and then after that is Shorewood,' he said. 'We want to have a series of good weekends — show that this was not a fluke, show that we can do this everyday.
'Because these guys are working their butts off with their double practices. They know what they have to do.'