When Aaron Whitaker stepped up to the lane six starting blocks for the 50-meter butterfly prelims at the U.S. National Championships and World Championships Trials on Wednesday in Indianapolis, the Chesterton senior was taken aback as he looked alongside him.
"I was right next to Matt Grevers," Whitaker said of the 2012 London Olympics champion in the 100 backstroke. "It was hard to focus on my race, I was so worried about how well he does. It was cool to realize I was right next to an Olympian. I was racing the best."
While Grevers led the field of 21 with a time of 23.47 seconds, Whitaker checked in 19th in 24.96. He returned in the evening to post a 24.89 in the finals.
"It was my first time swimming the 50 fly in meters," said Whitaker, one of only seven teenagers in the field. "I was unshaved and untapered. I was really just here for the experience. My goal was just to drop time, which I did, so I can't be too upset about that. It was a good learning experience, swimming with the big guys."
One of those big guys is his brother Kyle, a 2010 Chesterton graduate now swimming for the University of Michigan. Kyle finished seventh Tuesday in the 200 butterfly, clocking 1:58.52.
"It was really nice having him around," Aaron said. "It really calmed me down. He was telling me, it's just a 50, just another race, you've done 1,000 of them before. He said to just focus on the little stuff, your start, your breakout, your stroke rate."
The Whitakers return to the water today as Kyle swims the 400 individual medley today, while Aaron competes in the 100 fly. Kyle will do the 200 IM on Saturday.
Elsewhere at the meet, Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin each won two national titles with times that ranked among the top five in the world this year.
The two star American swimmers took a similar tack.
They each won in the 200 freestyle, then returned to the pool less than 90 minutes later and each won in the 200 backstroke.
Lochte won the 200 free in 1:45.97, fifth-fastest in the world this year, and took the 200 back in 1:55.16, third-fastest in 2013.
Franklin's time of 1:55.63 in the 200 free was 0.08 seconds off the world's best this season. The Olympic champion and world-record holder in the 200 back then set a U.S. Open record in that race at 2:05.68, the world's best time this season.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.