Ethan Whitaker watched older siblings Kyle and Talor win a combined 18 state swimming titles, and the Chesterton sophomore witnessed his twin brother, Aaron, place second in the 100 fly last year.
An alternate on last year's state-qualifying roster, Ethan Whitaker is now enjoying the spotlight.
He's the top seed in both the 200-yard free (1:44.94) and 500 free (4:43.43) for today's LaPorte Sectional prelims. He also swims on the top-seeded 200 free and 400 relays.
"I think this is something that he has known he is capable of doing," Chesterton coach Kevin Kinel said. "He's decided to turn it loose."
Whitaker said a talk with Kinel after the state meet opened his eyes.
"He said, 'I'll see you down at state next year,'" said Whitaker, who was second in the 500 (4:53.65) and fourth in the 200 (1:49.88) at last year's sectional. "That made me feel like it was already set in stone. It's starting to sink in now. ... I've opened the gate."
Whitaker's time in the 500 free is the seventh fastest this season on the swimming coaches website, and his 200 free time is 10th.
At the Duneland Athletic Conference meet, he played a part in wins in three events -- including a victory in the 500.
His progression allowed Kinel to alter his lineup and move Blake Pieroni -- who placed second in the 200 and fourth in the 500 at last year's state meet -- to shorter distances. Whitaker's influence has also spread to the relays.
"His legs are really crucial," Kinel said. "He's allowed us to do a lot of things."
He's joined a sophomore quad -- Pieroni, Jack Wallar and twin brother Aaron -- which has become a dominant swimming force.
"It's great to feel like an important person (in the lineup)," Ethan said. "Last year, I might have been going through the motions. I now have a feeling of what Blake and Aaron felt last year. It's kind of like it's a full-time job for me now."
Whitaker was edged by Valparaiso's Andrew Antonetti for the 200 free DAC crown, and the fellow sophomore will probably be Ethan's main threat in both distance races. Whitaker also has a quick back-to-back in the 500 and 200 free relay.
"I'm learning to not go out too fast in the (200)," Whitaker said. "I feel more comfortable in the 500. I can sense when I'm going too slow or too fast.
"I just have a 50 (in the 200 relay), so I just give it my all and burn out the rest of the gas in my tank."
In a short amount of time, Ethan Whitaker's career appears to be coming full circle.
"I still have more things to learn, but I think better things are coming ... it's very exciting," Ethan said. "Talor is now home, and Kyle is constantly encouraging me from (the University of Michigan). It's kind of like things have flipped around, and now they're in the stands watching me. That's cool."