When Mason Miller transferred to Westerville North High School last summer after his family moved from California, swimming and diving coach Jeff Riegler knew he had a special athlete.
The sophomore didn't disappoint, as he won the 50-yard freestyle (20.87 seconds) in the Division I state meet that concluded Feb. 23 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. Upper Arlington's Thomas Trace (20.94) was runner-up.
"I thought I was capable, but I never expected to win it," Miller said. "It felt pretty good."
Miller placed second in the 100 free (45.77) behind Akron Firestone's Mark Belanger (45.17), as the North boys team finished 17th (37 points) behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (270) as 57 teams scored.
"We knew he'd be good," Riegler said. "He works really hard, he listens, he's a great kid and he's only a sophomore. He's going to get bigger, stronger and faster, so the sky is the limit for him."
Miller competed in four events in the California state meet last season, placing fifth in the 50 free (21.37).
His state championship is the first for the Warriors since 2008 when Lindsay Lash won the second of back-to-back titles in the 100 backstroke.
"It was really nice," Riegler said of having someone stand at the top of the podium at state. "It would be great to have a couple relays there with him, but hopefully in the next two years we can accomplish that."
Miller was the only state qualifier for the boys team, which finished 12th (77) in the district meet Feb. 16 at Ohio State behind champion UA (380) as 24 teams scored and tied Grove City for fifth (105) in a 12-team sectional Feb. 9 behind champion and host UA (351).
The Warriors placed sixth (144) in the OCC-Cardinal Division meet Jan. 26, behind Dublin Jerome (224), Hilliard Darby (195), Westerville South (188), Westerville Central (166) and Worthington Kilbourne (153) and ahead of Dublin Scioto (143) and Hilliard Bradley (26).
Other expected to return include juniors Jake Fowler and Luke Wetta, sophomores Matthew Bernsdorf and Kieran Blake (diver) and freshmen Ted Li.
Senior Rachel Jackson represented the girls team at state, finishing 22nd (59.12) in the 100 butterfly.
The Warriors didn't score at state as Cincinnati St. Ursuline (234) won with 55 teams scoring.
North finished 11th (83) at district, third (134) in the UA sectional and third (199) in the OCC-Cardinal meet, behind Jerome (341) and Central (209) and ahead of Scioto (150), Kilbourne (141), Darby (135), South (126) and Bradley (0).
Among those expected to return are juniors Morgan Bernhard, Emma Clark, Emily Jeffries and Morgan Morris, sophomores Justys Callaway, Kaylee Kendall and Elizabeth White and freshmen Bailey Bernhard and Hana Matsumoto.
Whitaker leads Central at state
Sophomore Gabe Whitaker led the Central boys team at state, placing eighth (21.19) in the 50 free and 15th (52.24) in the 100 fly. He placed fourth (21.29) in the 50 free at state as a freshman.
Whitaker teamed with senior Jared Kay, junior Josh Nixon and sophomore Jon Brooks to place 12th (1:27.88) in the 200 free relay and teamed with Nixon, Brooks and senior Zach Cooke to finish 13th (3:12.81) in the 400 free relay.
The boys team finished 24th (30) at state, 10th (112) at district and third (129) in the UA sectional.
Others expected to return include juniors Adam Radecki and Matt Walsh, sophomores Matthew Cramer, Austin Lee, Evan Phillips, Ramon Puras and Grant Swartz and freshmen Spencer Cahill, Cameron George, Dan Hetterscheidt, Joe Hetterscheidt, David Kile, Chris Ogle and Eric Powers.
Senior Sally Thompson led the girls team at state, finishing 11th (24.41) in the 50 free and 13th (53.0) in the 100 free.
She teamed with senior Marissa Kramer and juniors Alex Schuttinger and Dariyn Stedman to finish 14th (1:39.62) in the 200 free relay and 17th (3:39.61) in the 400 free relay.
Also at state, Kramer finished 23rd (59.22) in the 100 fly.
"Everything went pretty well (at state) and we had some fast swims," coach Austin Staab said. "We had individuals make it back (to finals), we had relays make it back to finals, so it was a pretty good weekend."
The Warhawks finished 32nd (16) at state, eighth (120) at district and fourth (106) in the UA sectional.
Others expected back include juniors Ashley Atchison, Sarah Cronin, Elaine Grey and Wahito Njau, sophomores Emily Bateman, Kelsea Harter, Hannah Leedy, Sarah Reed, Jeni Schorling, Kaylor Schuttinger and Emily Thomsen and freshmen Nicole Brown, Justine Clark, Maddie Cronin, Jackie Kay, Katie Welsh and Elaine Cooke.
Higdons lead South at state
Senior Jared Higdon and his brother, junior Calvin Higdon, represented the South boys team at state.
Both competed in the 100 fly, with Jared placing seventh (51.01) and Calvin finishing 11th (51.44). Jared placed sixth in the 100 fly (50.77) last season.
The Wildcats tied Lakewood St. Edward for 33rd (18) at state, finished 11th (109) at district and won (216) the 11-team sectional Feb. 9 at Thomas Worthington.
Expected returnees include junior Matt Johnson, sophomores Darragh Bridgette, Spencer Clark, Andy Golden, Andrew Haga and Reed Watkins and freshmen Robert Agle, Cohen Buer, Collin Buer, Brynner Jung, Josh Lee, Arjun Pandya, Nick Tee, Jeremiah Vannest and Peter Westfall.
Senior Riley Buer represented the South girls team at state, finishing 21st (2:09.53) in the 200 individual medley. She finished her prep career as a four-time state qualifier.
The Wildcats did not score at state and finished 19th (36) at district and sixth (107) in the 13-team Thomas sectional.
Expected returnees include juniors Dominique Dosky and Anna Dunlope, sophomores Lauren Frank, Amanda Gesouras, Rachel Nicodemus, Amanda Phillips, Clelia Rose and Tiffany Schafer and freshmen Adriana Anguiano, Abbie Kotik, Lauren Seitz, Libby Stadler and Korall Titus-Carr.
"It is hard to believe considering the quality of our senior class this year, but we were a relatively young team," coach Kevin Kissling said. "Our handful of seniors were excellent models for high-level competition and the team-first concept.
"Our underclassmen were committed, hard-working and attentive. I am thrilled with the progress we made as a group and already am looking forward to next season."