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They were tired, they were overworked and they may have even been a little cranky from the endless workload that's been put before them this winter.

But the Franklin boys swimming team has big, big goals in front of it, which started on Feb. 4, when the Sabers cruised to their fifth Southeast Conference title in a row.

The elite Saber swimmers will continue training right until the WIAA sectional meet on Saturday, Feb. 11, at Carthage College because they want to be at their absolute best for the D1 state meet Feb. 18 in Madison.

The Sabers will go for their fourth straight sectional title. More important, they will look to qualify as many swimmers as possible for state. The winners of each event plus all those whose times are among the best 18 efforts from all sectionals statewide will advance to state.

Franklin finished fifth in state last season, and coach Ross Lennertz would like to better that this season.

Hence the continued hard training.

"They are just tired, but they are excited," Lennertz said. "Two of the kids we'll take will be rested; the other six will be rested for state. Last year, we rested everyone for sectional, but this year we're aiming a little higher, and the guys are handling it well. We'll still get a bunch of guys to state (unrested) regardless, and we really want to see that pop (the big time drop) at state, not sectional."

The Southeast Conference meet belonged to people such as senior Ryan Fitzgerald and freshman Jack Gardner. Fitzgerald, in his last meet, and Gardner both got an event gold medal when they teamed with Will Lennertz and DJ Nowacki to claim the 400-yard freestyle relay in the meet's last event (3:26.47).

That victory put the capper on a 578-point total that was well ahead of runner-up Kenosha Tremper (397).

"Both those guys (Fitzgerald and Gardner) had really good meets," said coach Lennertz.

Among their nine first-place finishes, the Sabers swept all three relays, as Justin Craig, Michael Fischer, Will Lennertz and James Kostrzewa took the 200 medley relay (1:44.63) and Kostrzewa, Devin Watson, Fischer and Nowacki teamed up on the 200 free relay (1:32.91).

Nowacki was a double winner in the 200 free (1:49.0) and 500 free (4:55.13), as was Kostrzewa in the 100 free (49.18) and 50 free (22.58). Fischer took the 100 butterfly (54.68) and Craig the 100 backstroke (55.23).

Franklin dominated several events, including the 200 free, where it went one, two, four and five. In the 200, Watson was second (1:52.45), Matthew Cheng fourth (1:58.66) and Gardner fifth (2:00.69). In the 100 free, they went one, two, three. Craig was second (49.61) and Watson third (51.69).

Other strong finishes for the Sabers included the following: diving: Jared Kleczka, second (419.15 points), Lukas Migliano, third (401.55), Adam St. John, sixth (351.2), and Mark Davis, eighth (328.5); 200 medley relay: Cameron White, Gardner, Fitzgerald and Ken Kobayashi, fifth (1:54.06); 200 individual medley: Will Lennertz, second (2:07.98); 100 butterfly: Will Lennertz, second (54.95), Fitzgerald, fifth (58.68); 500 free: White, fifth (5:39.05); 200 free relay: Kobayashi, Sam Hauke, Cheng and White, sixth (1:42.48); 100 backstroke: Fitzgerald, fifth (1:01.32); 100 breaststroke: Gardner, fourth (1:07.41), Cheng, fifth (1:08.18); and 400 free relay: Hauke, Cheng, Watson and Craig, third (3:33.81).

Given the circumstances, coach Lennertz was pleased with the effort.

"It was just a very good effort overall," he said. "The times were not fantastic, as we expected."

Afterward, the hardworking Sabers cut loose a little.

"We got a little bit celebratory," said coach Lennertz. "We went over to the Nowackis, and everybody brought a little something. The guys had fun with some Nerf guns, and then we got serious. I was also teaching them how to play foosball. Everybody was talking a little trash, but I taught them a thing or two in the end."

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