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Franklin swim team advances relay team, two divers to WIAA state meet

Coach Lennertz provides unique motivation to team at sectional

Nov. 6, 2012

All for a mustache.

And a particularly ugly one at that.

But hey, Franklin girls swim coach Ross Lennertz sees it as all being for a good cause.

Normally sporting a full beard with a 'stache, Lennertz told his 200-yard medley relay team that he would show up with just a mustache for Saturday's WIAA sectional meet in Kenosha to serve as motivation for their attempt at earning a state meet berth.

And Lennertz followed through, sporting the most God-awful handlebar kind of thing that the team had ever seen that morning.

Then the relay team of Bethany Lefeber, Jourdan Lepkowski, Elizabeth Herrick and Rowan Liederbach (AKA "Fab 4") did its part and sliced more than a second off the school record, won the race and earned its own slot in Saturday's WIAA Division 1 state meet at the University of Wisconsin Madison's Natatorium.

Records are hard to come by, but the relay team is believed to be the first non-diver that Franklin has qualified for the state meet in at least a decade.

"I showed up with it and then I told them they had to win their race," said Lennertz, "and they did. Seriously, going into the week, I looked at the heat sheet and figured that relay was our best chance of getting anyone (in the pool) to state. We got a good boost the night before with the divers."

Divers heading to state

That they did, as sophomore Southeast Conference champion diver Katrina Voge continued to build on her late-season success with an impressive 11-dive total of 424.55 points - good enough to win the competition.

She had to work hard to beat senior teammate and 2011 state meet placewinner Melanie Pearson, who was second with a 409.15 score, and who also easily earned her ticket back to state for the third time.

Pearson's effort was not without drama as at the previous week's conference meet, she hit the board, injuring her fingers and wrist. She got them wrapped up and continued on to finish fourth.

The fingers for the Western Illinois Division 1 scholarship-bound Pearson were still all taped up and unable to move at sectional, but Pearson still persevered.

The group of swimmers and divers will take part in events at state on Saturday. Diving is held at 10 a.m. and swimming will commence at 3 p.m.

Crediting their coach

Franklin's qualifying efforts led to an impressive 259 point total in the sectional, good for fourth in the 13-school field. Badger/Big Foot won with 375.

"The divers got us a one-two the night before, so I thought it would be good just to keep things going," Lennertz said. "Everyone on that relay swam just great."

Lepkowski credits Lennertz with helping get the relay to the promised land.

"He works us very hard," she said, "but it really helps push us to where we want to go. We wanted this chance and we became very motivated."

And of the mustache?

"Hey, it really helped with our motivation," she said. "I would have thought that he wouldn't do it. That he wouldn't show up like that at all, but he did it and it was an awesome thing for him to do."

The relay came across in 1:56.58, a half-second ahead of Badger/Big Foot crew. It will swim in the first race of the day in Madison.

Team, as a whole, does well

Lennertz said the relay just pushed the rest of the team all day. He said about only two races at the meet didn't turn out to be best times.

"It was just a tremendous effort by all the girls," he said. "Almost all the times were personal bests and we just kept carrying that momentum (from the relay) forward. We just picked up a lot of energy from one another."

"This was just a mind-blowing effort all day," added Lepkowski, who has swam with the Southwest Aquatic Club since she was in the sixth grade. "We couldn't believe how well we were doing."

Other placewinning efforts included the following; 200 free - Lefeber, 10th (2:12.33); Anne Gundrum, 14th (2:14.24). 200 individual medley - Herrick, fifth (2:21.14); Gretchen Klein, 15th (2:35.51). 50 free - Liederbach, sixth (26.08); Tara Theissen, 12th (26.6). 100 butterfly - Theissen, second (1:03.44); Lepkowski, sixth (1:05.07); Lefeber, 10th (1:06.03). 100 free - Liederbach, eighth (58.0). 500 free - Lepkowski, sixth (5:41.34). 200 free relay - Gundrum, Theissen, Amanda Phil and Sara Kraus, seventh (1:51.01). 100 backstroke - Gundrum, 12th (1:12.66). 100 breaststroke - Herrick, fifth (1:13.71); Emily Simmons, 10th (1:18.45). 400 free relay - Theissen, Liederbach, Herrick and Lepkowski, fifth (3:55.91).

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