Six-time D1 state champion Madison Memorial is a bit down this year with Madison West on the rise, and Arrowhead looks to have a very strong team once again, but in the WIAA boys swimming ranks, is there room for a newcomer atop the championship podium?
Franklin coach Ross Lennertz thinks so.
The Sabers were fifth a year ago with a very young team and challenged themselves with a hearty schedule this season. They dominated the Southeast Conference meet and overpowered the WIAA sectional at Carthage College on Feb. 11, qualifying 14 individuals and three relays for the Saturday, Feb. 18 state meet at the UW-Madison Natatorium.
And with the best part of the team having trained through the sectional and ready to drop large amounts of time at state, Lennertz thinks the Sabers are ready to spring some surprises.
"Last year, we weren't on people's radar," Lennertz said. "We have some good seeds right now, but I don't think we're anywhere near our potential ... it's going to be hard, but we still have our eyes set on No. 1 (a state championship). It's going to be hard fought. We're definitely in the top five, but it's going to be a very close top five."
Diving will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18, while swimming timed finals will be held at 3 p.m.
Qualifers for the Sabers include divers Jared Kleczka, Adam St. John, Mark Davis and Lukas Migliano; the 200 medley relay team of Justin Craig, Michael Fischer, Will Lennertz and James Kostrzewa; the 200 free relay team of Kostrzewa, Devin Watson, Fischer and DJ Nowacki; and the 400 free relay of Craig, Watson, Will Lennertz and Nowacki.
In addition, Nowacki will advance in the 200 and 500 freestyles, as will Watson in the 200 free; Kostrzewa in the 50 and 100 freestyles; Craig in the 100 free and the 100 backstroke; Fischer in the 100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke; and Will Lennertz in the 100 butterfly.
Ross Lennertz thinks all three relays, especially the 200 free, are in for major time drops and that with the top swimmers shaved and tapered, Franklin could pile up a formidable number of top-six places, adding up to a lot of points.
"I really think we're going to come out of nowhere in a lot of these second and third heat swims," he said. "i actually like where we're sitting."
Fast heat qualifiers for the Sabers include the medley relay, Nowacki in the 200 free, Fischer in both the butterfly and breaststroke, Kostrzewa in the 100 free and Craig in the 100 backstroke.
"We'll be tapered, shaved and wearing fast suits," said Ross Lennertz. "We'll be ready to go."
Franklin earned the berths with their dominant 428-point effort in the 12-team sectional; Kenosha Tremper was a distant second with 299.
The Sabers won 10 of the 12 events, including all three relays.
The medley relay won by close to five seconds in 1:37.52, while the 200 free relay came across in 1:30.05, and the 400 free team hit the wall in 3:19.03.
Fischer, Kostrzewa and Nowacki all won two events apiece. Fischer was clocked in 52.56 to take the 100 butterfly, while Will Lennertz earned his individual state berth with a second-place effort of 53.12. Fischer then came back to take the 100 breaststroke in 59.08.
Kostrzewa claimed the 50 free in 21.92 and then led a one-two-three sweep of the 100 free. He was clocked in 47.66 for his win, and Craig also advanced with a 48.12 effort. Cheng just missed out on a state berth in the 100 free with his third-place 50.0 clocking.
Nowacki turned in a very fast time of 1:45.09 in taking the 200 free, while Cheng earned his spot with a third-place effort of 1:48.54. Nowacki then won the 500 free in 4:55.23, and Craig won the backstroke in 52.58.
In diving, Kleczka was second (460.65 points), Migliano third (421.45), St. John seventh (365.55) and Davis eighth (361.7).
Other sectional efforts that just missed out on state included Will Lennertz in the 200 individual medley (2:03.74) and Matthew Cheng earning fourth in the 100 breaststroke (1:04.98) and the 200 free (1:53.9).
Ross Lennertz praised the efforts of Craig in the 100 backstroke, Will Lennertz in the butterfly and Nowacki in the 500 free. He was also pleased his gamble to enter all four divers paid off in four state meet berths.
"I think we're definitely going to surprise some people," said Ross Lennertz.