There were a series of meets before the high-powered Franklin boys swim team entered the 16-school Cedarburg Bulldog Invitational on Jan. 7.

But they were just warm-ups for the Sabers, as they used balance and excellence to overwhelm the good field and easily take home the title.

Coach Ross Lennertz was not only pleased with the win but how the Sabers did it.

"It was the first big meet of the year for us," he said. "Most of the others we had breezed through, and I reminded the guys of that once in awhile with a swift kick in the butt (in practice), but for the most part, they've come to practice with a great mindset and effort. The kids are working very hard to reach our goals.

"This was the first competition where we had a lot of (good) people to race against, and we didn't rest for it at all. A couple of teams will do a quick one-two days of rest for a meet like this, but we didn't at all. I've been kicking their butts for two to three weeks now (with high-intensity practices) and still, even with that, we had a lot of people right at best times."

Franklin was fifth in the WIAA D1 state meet last year and has plans on improving on that finish this season.

The Sabers will look to turn in a similar effort at the Shorewood Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 14.

Franklin scored 435 points for its victory, as Grafton was a distant second with 298 and Cedarburg third with 266.

The Sabers put their primary efforts into the three relays, and those efforts paid off handsomely with convincing wins in all three races.

The 200-yard medley team of Justin Craig, Michael Fischer, Will Lennertz (Ross's little brother) and James Kostrzewa cruised to a four-second-plus win in a state honor roll time of 1:37.98, while the 200 free team of Kostrzewa, Devin Watson, Fischer and DJ Nowacki won by close to two seconds in 1:30.09.

The 400 free team of Craig, Watson, Nowacki and Will Lennertz closed off the meet with a spirited win in 3:20.23. Will Lennertz swam a solid 100 free anchor leg but had to hold off Grafton's Sean O'Connor, whose sensational 46.95 split brought the Black Hawks home in 3:20.64.

Fischer, who turned in an amazing 50 breaststroke split of 26.05 to break open the medley relay race, came back to win the 100 breaststroke open race in 1:00.6, while Craig dominated the 100 backstroke by four seconds in 54.18.

The Sabers got a great jump-start to the meet when they went one-two and four in diving as Jared Kleczka won with a score of 437.8 points, Lukas Migliano was second (389.05) and Mark Davis fourth (318.25).

"And we have a fourth diver who's just not quite ready yet," Lennertz said. "We're hoping a couple of those guys can help us out at state (in February) with some good places."

As noted, the talented Sabers met stiff competition in other races.

Nowacki had a good meet, coach Lennertz said, taking third in both the 200 free (1:46.29) and 500 free (4:57.77) races. Coach Lennertz said Nowacki's 200 time is right on what he did at last year's state meet.

Will Lennertz was third in the 200 individual medley (2:04.39) and fifth in the 100 butterfly (55.19). Fischer was right ahead of him in the butterfly at 55.12.

Coach Lennertz said Kostrzewa had a very good meet, too, as he was second in both the 50 free (22.31) and 100 free (48.93), while Craig was third in the 100 free (49.16).

Other good efforts by event included the following: 200 free: Watson, seventh (1:53.68), Matthew Cheng, ninth (1:56.01); 100 free: Watson, fifth (51.44); 200 free relay: Ryan Fitzgerald, Jack Gardner, Sam Hauke, and Cheng, 10th (1:41.74); and 100 breaststroke: Cheng, fifth (1:07.11), and Gardner, sixth (1:08.23).

"We just had great races all-around," said coach Lennertz. "Like I said, this was the first of the really big meets. Now we'll see what we can really do."