The road to improving on its impressive fifth-place state-meet finish of a year ago is fraught with challenges for the Franklin boys swimming team.
It was looking to make it 2-for-2 in major invites in as many weeks on Jan. 14 at the Shorewood Invitational, but despite five first-place finishes, including two by Michael Fischer, they came up a bit short of the deeper Brookfield co-op as the Sabers had to settle for second in the 10-team event.
The finish left the Sabers motivated
"It was a good meet by the way," said Saber coach Ross Lennertz. "We could have won it, but we needed to step up in a few places, but we just couldn't quite do it. Brookfield had just a little too much depth for us to handle. Still, we talked to the boys afterward. They were a little upset, but we did leave the meet having done some good things and also knowing what bad things we can correct. We were a lot closer in this meet than we were last year.
"And the guys are determined to beat them (Brookfield) at state."
Franklin, which will be at the Kenosha Bradford Invite on Saturday, Jan. 21, scored 418 points for their place. Brookfield won with 429.5, and D2 state power Monona Grove was third with 370.
Fischer remains an impressive leader for Franklin, as he won both the 100-yard butterfly (54.34 seconds} and then rallied to hold off a Brookfield swimmer to win the 100 breaststroke by just 0.05 in 1:00.02.
Will Lennertz made it a one-two effort in the butterfly with his second-place showing (55.04), and both he and Fischer were key components in the winning effort of the 200 medley relay (1:38.51). Other members of the relay included Justin Craig and James Kostrzewa.
Coach Lennertz was impressed with Fischer's efforts, noting Fischer's strong turns were what won him the breaststroke.
The medley relay win was part of a very strong start for the Sabers, as for the second week in a row, they had an impressive showing in diving. Jared Kleczka won the event by close to 50 points with a 427.35-point total, Lukas Migliano was third (341.65), Adam St. John fifth (328.05) and Mark Davis seventh (306.3). It was St. John's first major meet of the year. Coach Lennertz said the divers will be a major part of any kind of state run the Sabers make next month.
Franklin also won the 200 free relay with Kostrzewa, Devin Watson, Fischer and DJ Nowacki (1:29.71), edging Monona Grove by just 0.15 of a second. Craig was also second in the 100 backstroke (54.04).
Other strong efforts for the Sabers included the following: 200 freestyle: Nowacki, fourth (1:46.85), Watson, seventh (1:52.57); 200 individual medley: Will Lennertz, third (2:06.45); 50 free: Kostrzewa, fifth (22.51); 100 free: Kostrzewa, fourth (49.19), Craig, sixth (49.51); 500 free: Nowacki, third (4:59.61); 100 breaststroke: Matthew Cheng, ninth (1:07.84); and 400 free relay: Craig, Watson, Will Lennertz and Nowacki, third (season-best 3:17.13).
Coach Lennertz was very pleased with the efforts of all three relays and noted he tried resting the swimmers for about a day just before the meet just to see how much of an effect it would have. He said the Sabers have been training so hard, there was little impact of the minimal rest. In winning the Cedarburg Invite on Jan. 7, the Sabers had not rested at all.
"We really swam pretty hard (in practice) throughout the week," he said.
It's all part of working toward some major goals, including one very impressive and difficult-to-achieve one.
"It's a long shot, but I think we have a chance at getting all 18 (individual entries) to state," he said. "I like where we are at this point."