Every year Skyline High School Coach Steve Marsing claims he will win the "Battle of the Paddle," the swimming contest between Skyline and Brighton high schools.

But in the seven years of the rivalry Marsing has never been able to take home the paddle, the trophy awarded to the winning squad. Such was the case again Tuesday night at the Skyline swimming pool.Brighton won, again. But this time, unlike other meets in the past, it was a contest. The Eagles girls' team lost 98-71 but the boys' team lost by only 12 points, 92-80, a big difference from years past when they suffered defeats of almost 100 points.

"I'm disappointed of course. I wanted to win. But next year it looks even better. It's exciting. Look how many people are here for a dual swimming meet," Marsing said, pointing to an estimated crowd of 300 spectators. "If all the meets were this close and exciting the state's swimming would be much faster."

The margin of victory was a surprise to Brighton Coach Russ Lauber. Close competitions are rare for Brighton, which has won six consecutive boys' state titles and seven straight girls' championships.

"Steve kept telling me it was going to be close this year, but I never take him serious," said Lauber. "I want him to do my taxes because he's so creative with numbers. But this year it proved true."

Brighton won every event in the boys' competition, but that was expected as the Bengals have a defending state champion or contender in almost every discipline. Skyline, however had a few surprises with some close seconds and thirds.

Bengal Kyle Lambson had an outstanding meet, finishing first in the 50-yard freestyle, the 400-yard freestyle medley and the 100-yard backstroke, an event he unofficially set a new state record in at :54.89.

The Etherington brothers, Clark and Mark also turned in top performances for the Bengals. Clark won the 200-yard individual medley, was part of the winning 200-yard medley relay but was edged out by his younger brother in the 100-yard breaststroke.

The Eagles did have a few bright spots, however. Alan Bone captured second in the 100-yard freestyle and 400-yard relay as well as a third in the 200-yard freestyle. His results, says Marsing, are quite impressive considering he's only been swimming for a few years.

The Lady Eagles won six events in Tuesday's competition but it was Brighton's depth that paid off. Skyline's Amy Leeper was part of the winning 200-yard medley relay, won the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard butterfly, an event in which she holds the state title. Lisa Wood, a swimmer who competed for Brighton last year, but elected to transfer to Skyline had little trouble winning the 200-yard IM, out swimming her closest opponent Marni Wahlquist of Brighton by almost six seconds. Wood finished in 2:12.82 while Wahlquist was clocked at 2:18.71. Wood also won the 100-yard breaststroke and was part of the winning 200-yard medley relay.

Brighton, although not winning every event in the girls' competition did score points in every contest. Mollie McDonald won the 200-yard freestyle was third in the 100-yard freestyle and anchored the winning 400-yard freestyle relay. Teammate Kris Haws won the 100-yard backstroke and was part of the second place medley relay.

Brighton won both the boys' and girls' diving competitions. Alicia Crus slipped past teammate and defending state champion Annie Mansell for first in the girls' contest while Todd Crabtree had little trouble winning the boys' competition.