February 6, 2013

HIGH SCHOOL SWIMMING: Waterville's Bernier working her way back

By Matt DiFilippo mdifilippo@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

As Waterville swim coach Bob Johnston puts it, this is the time for quality, rather than quantity. Everything done now is with the goal of the Purple Panthers swimming their best at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference meet Friday in Bath and the state meet in Orono on Feb. 19.

click image to enlarge

BACK IN THE POOL: Brianna Bernier is working her way back into shape after suffering a concussion before the start of the season. The Waterville senior is the fifth seed in both the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard butterfly in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B championships.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seaman

Senior Brianna Bernier, like all the other swimmers, is trying to accomplish that. While Bernier estimates she is at about 70 percent effectiveness, she is still seeded fifth in both the 200 IM and the 100 butterfly at Friday's KVAC meet.

Bernier, who also swims with the Mid Maine Dolphins, suffered a freak concussion before the high school season when she passed out during a class at school.

"It kind of felt like I was starting from square one again," she said. "I had been swimming before high school (season) because I'm on the Dolphins team. But it felt like all of my conditioning was gone. I missed two meets, and then the one I did go to, I was still recovering from it, so I wasn't able to dive or anything.

"Even now, I still feel like I haven't been able to reach my potential this year because of it. While I'm still building up my conditioning, everybody else is at their peak, and I'm still not going to be where I should be."

Last year, Bernier finished ninth in the 200 IM at the Class B state meet with a time of 2 minutes, 28 seconds. Her seed time for Friday is 2:34 for the IM and 1:17 for the fly.

"I know Brianna's done a better time than 1:17," Johnston said. "She's only swum it a couple times, so she should move up. I think she'll do better when she gets to the big meet."

When you go through Bernier's schedule, it's pretty impressive that she's still swimming well at all. In addition to double practices, she's a good student and works part-time, among other things.

"Most of the time it's really busy," she said. "The weekends, where most people would sit home and relax, I work and I also coach the Little Dolphins on the weekend and I (teach) a couple private lessons."

Bernier's immediate goal is to drop a few seconds on each of her times. Depending on where Waterville needs her, she might not necessarily be swimming the same events at states.

"Brianna's flexible enough, I could put her in the backstroke and she'd do about the same," Johnston said. "Fly is an event that a lot of people don't like to do. It's tough and she's a big, strong girl. She doesn't have any problem with it. That's why I put her in the IM and the fly."

Bernier would like to swim in college and Johnston thinks she could conceivably swim at the Division I level. Since she wants to start her college experience close to home, she's attending UMaine-Augusta as a freshman and UMA doesn't have a swim team.

"If all things go well, I think I might transfer and see if I can go back on a swim team," she said. "If not, I might try swimming Master's, because I don't want to stop swimming."

Matt DiFilippo -- 861-9243


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