CANTON - John Whitaker almost passed on his final season with the Westerville Central High School boys swimming and diving team, but the chance to compete with his freshman brother, Gabe, persuaded him to return.

CANTON - John Whitaker almost passed on his final season with the Westerville Central High School boys swimming and diving team, but the chance to compete with his freshman brother, Gabe, persuaded him to return.

After the Division I state meet, which was held Feb. 23-25 at Canton's Branin Natatorium, John said he was glad that he stuck it out.

The Whitakers, along with seniors Dan Fay and Atticus Jordan, placed 13th in the 200 medley relay (1 minute, 37.92 seconds). They also joined Fay and sophomore Josh Nixon on the 16th-place 200 freestyle relay (1:28.7).

Gabe had the highest finish among Westerville swimmers, placing fourth in the 50 free (21.29). He also led off the 400 free relay of Jordan, freshman Jon Brooks and Fay that finished 15th (3:14.79).

Fay also finished 18th in the 100 butterfly (52.18).

"I'm naturally a baseball player, but the chance to swim with Gabe is the only reason why I swam this year," John said. "My little brother helped bring the seniors (on the 200 medley relay) together. He really brings it in all of our relays."

"It's been really nice to have my brother around," Gabe said. "He sets such a good example for me. I couldn't do anything without him."

Central tied New Albany for 19th (29) and Westerville South was 33rd (13) in the boys meet behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (297.5). The Warhawks placed 12th (65) and the Wildcats didn't score in the girls meet as Upper Arlington (300.5) won its eighth consecutive state title.

"We've never had a boys relay place at the state meet before," Central coach Ron Staab said. "To have all three of the boys relays place was something amazing."

The Whitakers were carrying on a family tradition. In 2010, their older brother, Sandy, placed second in the 100 fly (50.11) and third in the 100 backstroke (50.89) for St. Charles, while John helped Central's 200 free relay finish 19th (1:30.11).

Gabe, the only freshman to make the 50 free final this season, is the only Whitaker brother to reach the state awards podium as a freshman. He finished behind champion Dan DiSalle of Toledo St. Francis (20.99).

"What more can you ask from a freshman than to finish fourth in the state in the 50 free?" Staab said.

"I did what I wanted to do," Gabe said. "I've only done the 50 (free) for about a year. It gets me really nervous and gets my adrenaline pumping."

•With four swimmers competing at state, the Central girls had the third best team finish among central Ohio schools behind champion UA and fifth-place Watterson (132).

Sophomore Alex Schuttinger, senior Taylor Schwartz and juniors Marissa Kramer and Sally Thompson earned 52 of the Warhawks' 65 points by placing seventh in the 200 free relay (1:38.23) and fifth in the 400 free relay (3:32.6).

UA won the 200 free relay in 1:34.68 and set a state-meet record of 3:24.24 in the 400 free relay.

"I really love these relays," said Thompson, who led off the 400 free and anchored the 200 free. "We're really close as friends and I think that helps us out with how fast we can go. Someone always has a pep talk before each race and it all gets into our heads. We know we have to put it all together and execute."

Also for the Warhawks, Schuttinger was 11th in the 100 free (52.79), Schwartz was 18th in the 100 back (58.5) and Thompson was 10th in the 100 free (52.78).

•A strong start and controlled breathing helped South junior Jared Higdon place sixth in the 100 fly (50.77) behind champion Jake Moore of Dublin Jerome (49.62).

"Today I had a good start off the block," said Higdon, who was the boys team's lone state competitor. "I felt like I was able to control my breathing more in that last lap."

It was Higdon's first appearance in a final. Last year, he finished 19th in the 100 fly (53.03) and 18th in the 200 individual medley (1:59.4).

"It feels a lot better than last year," said Higdon, who also was 20th in the 100 back (53.78) during the Feb. 24 preliminaries. "The higher up you are on the podium, the better it feels. I have another year to finish higher on the podium. That's a good feeling, too."

•After finishing eighth in the 100 breaststroke (1:05.99) last year, South junior Riley Buer struggled with rebuilding her stroke this season.

The girls team's lone state competitor, Buer placed 16th in the 100 breast (1:07.2).