Franklin boys swim team claims first ever Southeast Conference title
Balance and depth does trick for Sabers
Franklin boys swim coach Ross Lennertz was a wise man going into the Southeast Conference meet last Saturday.
He packed two sets of clothes, because if the Sabers were going to make history this day and claim their first-ever league title, he was going to look good as they did it.
Both happened, as the Sabers won the league test with a balanced and deep effort. And Lennertz took the expected jump into the Kenosha Bradford pool along with his joyful team.
Then he got changed and was able to take a happy and dry ride home to Franklin.
"Honestly, I was confident they could do it, if they swam like I knew they could," he said. "I was dressed, ready to be thrown in (to the pool). I was pretty sure that they could do it if they just believed."
And among the happiest of all the Saber supporters was Lennertz's boss, Franklin Athletic Director Sara Unertl. She was a state champion sprinter at Homestead and coached the Germantown girls from 2006-2009 and the Saber girls in a pinch in 2011, so she knows how hard Lennertz and his assistants Sarah Giuliani and diving coach Laura Citro have worked.
"We are really looking at history," she said, after scrolling down her computer screen looking at a record of Franklin conference championships. "This is very cool."
You could tell her smile was getting bigger over the phone.
Because, she like Lennertz knew how this team was built. The Sabers are not a talent-heavy, state-qualifier loaded-to-the-gills type of team. No, they are a workmanlike unit that has gotten better and better as the season has gone along.
It was a group that lost its best swimmer Josh Lefeber to graduation last year, but instead of complaining about that, they built off it.
"We set some school records last year," said Lennertz, "and that was a huge step forward, but this is another huge step for us."
Franklin will try to build upon this feat when it takes part in the WIAA Division 1 sectional meet this weekend at Greenfield. Diving is at 6 p.m. Friday and swimming is at 1 p.m. Saturday. The winner of each event and the next 18 best finishes out of all sectionals statewide will advance to the state meet Feb. 16 in Madison.
Needless to say, optimism is running high.
The remarkable thing about this league title was the Sabers did it with only one individual title - the 200-yard freestyle relay team of Takuto Kobayashi, Nick Banach, Sam Karolewicz and August Beck.
That victory was both psychologically and physically huge, because it gave the Sabers enough of a cushion over league dual meet champion Racine Case, a team very strong in the closing events of backstroke, breaststroke and 400 free relay.
"We swam that race as hard as we could," said Lennertz, "because we needed to be ahead as far as we could going into those final races."
And they were, as Franklin would have had to disqualify both of its 400 free relays to lose out on the title. They scored 442.5 points, to Case's 403. What did the job, said Lennertz, was balance and athletes moving up well beyond their seeds.
"I told them we have a couple of really good swimmers like August (Beck) and Takuto (Kobayashi)," he said. "They can get us big points but not enough to offset their big swimmers. We needed other guys like Bailey Plewa and Jacob Fellows to step up and they did. Those guys had awesome meets.
"Guys were seeded 15th and 16th in races and were moving up to seventh and eighth and that's a huge swing of points. We were always watching Case swimmers trying to take advantage of opportunities to beat them (in individual races)."
The Sabers got off to a good start as divers Beck (second with 362.85 points) and Andy Schauer (fourth with 330.8) provided Franklin with some good early points. The 50 free was also huge as Kobayashi was second (23.25) and Beck third (23.26) as was the 100 free with Kobayashi grabbing another second (52.49) and Andy Schuetz (56.46) and Austin Koska (56.72) taking fifth and sixth, respectively.
It was all part of the "team-first, no-ego" philosophy that the team adopted.
"It's such a great group of guys," Unertl said. "They are so team-oriented. It's nice to see good things happen to good people."
Who also happen to know how to dress for the right occasion.
Other good finishes by event included the following: 200 medley relay - Banach, David Ciszewski, Andrei Conrad and Koska, fifth (1:52.42). 200 free - Sam Karolewicz, fifth (2:02.89); Fellows, 11th (2:06.27). 200 individual medley - Banach, fourth (2:14.4); Conrad, fifth (2:17.53); Ciszewski, ninth (2:25.29). 50 free - Koska, seventh (24.62); Schuetz, 11th (25.31). 100 butterfly - Conrad, fourth (58.78); Plewa, seventh (1:01.93); Charles Phil, ninth (1:05.49). 500 free - Luke Gavronski, seventh (5:34.5); Karolewicz, ninth (5:40.38): Fellows, 12th (5:49.28). 100 backstroke - Banach, fifth (1:01.39); Gavronski, ninth (1:07.93). 100 breaststroke - Ciszewski, sixth (1:11.93); Plewa, 10th (1:14.31); Phil, 12th (1:15.59). 400 free relay - Kobayashi, Schuetz, Beck, and Karolewicz (3:32.49).
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