This could be big, really big.

Franklin senior swimmer Luke Gavronski doesn't mind the hard two-a-day practices that add up to many thousands of yards of mind- and body-numbing training all that much (though there are moments when it does get wearying).

Because he, like the rest of the Sabers, have eyes on some very big prizes. He knows that with the addition of the now storied freshman class, he and other veterans like D.J. Nowacki, Michael Fisher and Devin Watson have a chance to go out not with the pop of a backyard firecracker this season but with the bang of a Bartolotta lakefront fireworks explosion.

'The only thing that's surprising so far,' he said, 'is that though we've always done pretty well at conference and sectional meets, this is the first time we think we can do well at state. I mean really well.

'That thought makes us push even harder at practice. We're not thinking about how hard it is. All we're thinking about is the end goal, and that's a very good feeling.'

Which is becoming closer and closer to reality as the Sabers turned in another spectacular finish in winning their second major meet title in a week as they overpowered old area rival Muskego to take the 14-team 52nd annual South Milwaukee Rocket Invitational on Jan. 9.

Coach Ross Lennertz is pleased with the 'big picture' attitude the Sabers are maintaining.

'This was a real nice effort,' he said. 'There wasn't as much competition as at Cedarburg (which Franklin won on Jan. 2), but still good, friendly hard competition. Muskego had won this meet something like 10 years in a row. Longer than I can remember. We thought we could take it last year, but we didn't, so this feels very good.'

The Sabers will have another challenging week ahead of them, as they will head down to Shorewood on Saturday, Jan. 14, for the Greyhounds' annual invitational. Area powers like Brookfield, Cedarburg again and Shorewood will provide plenty of opportunities for Franklin to test its mettle.

'I've checked some state rankings (which are based on individual event times), and Brookfield is ranked seventh (in the state) and we're ranked eighth,' Lennertz said. 'This is going to be a good meet. We just want to keep moving things forward.'

That's all the Sabers did at the South Milwaukee meet as they scored 402 points for their winning total as Muskego was second with 327 and Wauwatosa was a distant third with 238.

Franklin won four events, including all relays.

One of the freshmen led the way, as Justin Craig edged a Kenosha Tremper swimmer by 0.04 of a second in winning in 56.99 seconds.

Craig also led off the school-record winning 200 medley relay that included Fischer, another freshman, Will Lennertz (Ross's brother), and Nowacki (1:42.68).

The 200 free relay team cruised to a close to three-second victory as freshman James Kostrzewa, Gavronski, Fischer and Lennertz checked in with a 1:32.34 clocking. The 400 free relay team of Kostrzewa, Gavronski, Nowacki and Craig had an even easier time, rolling home with a close to seven-second win in 3:23.45.

Taking seconds were Nowacki in the 200 free (1:48.09) and the 500 free (season best 4:53.87); Will Lennertz in the 200 individual medley (2:08.61); and Gavronski in the 100 free (49.94), while thirds went to Kostrzewa in the 50 free (23.16) and 100 backstroke (57.39); Fischer in the 100 butterfly (57.08) and 100 breaststroke (1:03.88); and Craig in the 100 free (50.91).

Other notable finishes included the following: 50 free: Gavronski, fourth (23.32); 100 butterfly: Will Lennertz, fourth (57.55); and 500 free: Watson, sixth (5:22.62).

'We're looking good, really good,' said Coach Lennertz. 'We did pretty well across the board.'

And with some strong camaraderie at work across the various grade levels, the improvement is likely to continue.

'Me, DJ (Nowacki), Fischer and Watson try to include the freshmen in everything,' Gavronski said. 'Over the break we did some team bonding, fun things in and out of the pool. We try to stay loose while still getting the work done.'