BRIGHTON — Misery is the word Brighton girls swimming and diving coach Jason Black used to describe what his team was going through in practices over the past four weeks.
Yet there was nothing miserable about what the Bulldogs accomplished on Saturday.
The No. 6-ranked team in Division 1, Brighton earned a third-place finish at the KLAA championship meet, doing so without one of its best swimmers in sophomore Lindsey Witte, who was helping the Bulldogs cross country team to take 12th at the D1 state finals.
Northville, which Brighton beat head-to-head earlier in the year, won it, scoring points in 38 of its 40 swims while Novi had nine divers rack up enough points to be runner-up, just ahead of Brighton. Hartland was thrilled that it took eighth.
“Getting the victories that they had and the times that they had was really awesome,” Black said. “In fact, they’re so tired, and competing and doing as well as they did was amazing.”
It was junior Julianne Libler who led the way for Brighton with two individual victories.
Libler clocked 2 minutes, 8.62 seconds in the 200-yard individual medley to secure the gold medal, and posted a time of 1:06.19 in the breaststroke to become a KLAA champion in that event. Both of those times were new KLAA records.
Libler was also part of a 200 medley team that, without Witte, placed second (1:49.28) and a 200 freestyle relay team that, even without 2016 state champion Taylor Seaman, recorded the same time as it did a year ago (1:36.95).
The medley relay team was comprised of Libler, Olivia Anderson, Megan Lubinski and Angela Chapin, while the 200 free relay squad had Libler, Lubinski, 100 freestyle runner-up Chloe Reed and 500 freestyle winner Kellie House.
“Oh, my God,” Black said, “this whole season has been great. I told you before we’re going to be better this year than last year. Last year, the focus was on one swimmer, and (this year) having six of them pull together, be a team and show we can be even better is outstanding.
“These girls are having a lot of fun relying on each other even through misery. It’s been great.”
Elsewhere, House (1:53.51) and Reed (1:54.59) took second and fourth, respectively, in the 200 free while Lubinski’s time of 24.65 in the 50 free gave her a bronze-medal finish. Lubinski also hit the state cut in the 100 free (54.36).
Anderson was the runner-up in the backstroke (58.31), and joined the runner-up 400 free relay team with House, Reed and Jillian Gray (3:36.51). Brighton diver Charlotte Bolitho nabbed fifth in the event with her score of 315.05.
Like Brighton’s core five on Saturday, Hartland’s Maddie Mince seems primed for states.
Mince led the Eagles to eighth with impressive performances in the 50 freestyle and butterfly.
Mince’s 100 butterfly time of 57.93 was her best this season, and gave her the conference’s silver medal. She won the same in the 50 freestyle, besting Brighton’s Lubinski by clocking in at 24.58 seconds.
“Maddie’s been having a great season,” Hartland coach Trey Conner said. “She’s been focused on the state meet the whole time, got her state cut early for 50 free and 100 fly, and her sights are set on not just swimming two events, but four events.”
That’s where the sights are now set for every Livingston County swimmer, who have two weeks to prepare for the state finals. Brighton figures to have an excellent shot at improving on its seventh-place finish last year, and perhaps, if things shake out perfectly, even the state championship.
“This is probably the deepest team at the state level that I’ve coached,” Black said. “Each individual girl has the opportunity to be all-state.”