Ben Starling

Lexington's Ben Starling swims the breaststroke leg of the 200-yard medley relay during the Division II state tournament preliminaries Thursday at Canton's C.T. Branin Natatorium.

CANTON — Ben Starling and his Lexington teammates made school history Thursday afternoon.

A junior, Starling helped Lex’s 200-yard medley relay team to a fifth-place finish during the preliminaries of the Division II state swimming tournament at C.T. Branin Natatorium, ensuring the Minutemen of a spot in Friday’s championship finals and a place on the podium.

Starling teamed up with Jacob Hathaway, Tanner Holmes and Andrew Hathaway to finish in 1 minute, 37.41 seconds. The quartet, which was seeded ninth, shaved more than a second off its state-qualifying time of 1:38.76.

What’s more, Starling’s breaststroke split of 26.69 seconds was unofficially the fastest in program history and almost a full second faster than his previous best. For Starling, Thursday’s performance provided a measure of redemption after he was disqualified in the 100 breatstroke at last year’s state tournament for a double-dolphin kick.

“My goal this year was to make it back and do better than I did last year,” Starling said. “I’ve already done better than I did last year.

“I’ve been looking forward to the state meet all year.”

Lexington’s preliminary time was the third fastest in program history and within striking distance of the school-record 1:35.59 last year’s 200 medley relay crew of Cayman Eichler, Justice Holmes, Wilson Cannon and Connor Miller clocked in the prelims.

“They all graduated,” Lex coach Brock Spurling said. “A lot of it is the leadership. Ben has been here before and Andrew has been here before.”

For the first time in school history, all three of the Lex boys relay teams will swim in the championship finals. The 200 freestyle relay team of Tanner Holmes, Jamin Howe, Lucas Starling and Andrew Hathaway finished seventh in 1:29.36. The 400 free relay crew of Andrew Hathaway, Howe, Lucas Starling and Jacob Hathaway was eighth in 3:17.95.

Tanner Holmes will swim in the ‘B’ final of the 100 butterfly after finishing 16th in 53.59. Andrew Hathaway reached the consolation finals in the 100 freestyle, finishing 13th in 48.89. Ben Starling will swim in the ‘B’ final in the 100 breaststroke after placing 12th in 59.94.

Ashland’s Rylan McDaniel and Ontario’s Brienne Trumpower both reached the ‘A’ finals individually. McDaniel was fourth in the 100 breaststroke in 57.53, while Trumpower was sixth in the 100 freestyle in 52.47 and will swim in the ‘B’ final in the 200 freestyle after finishing 16th in 1:55.58.

A freshman, Trumpower also helped Ontario’s 200 freestyle relay team reach the championship finals. She joined with Tiffany Whittaker, Ava Ruhe and Amy Evans to finish sixth in 1:39.75.

All three of Ontario’s girls relay teams will race in the finals. The 200 medley relay unit of Jennifer Crum, Myla Creed, Amy Evans and Ava Ruhe was 15th in 1:52.47, while the 400 free relay squad of Trumpower, Natalie Link, Ruhe and Evans was 14th in 3:44.07.

Ontario’s 200 medley relay team was among the biggest movers of the day. The quartet came in with the 23rd fastest qualifying time.

“We kind of expected to go faster because we had a few malfunctions at our swim at districts,” Creed said. “I’m really proud of us.

“It feels so good because they worked so hard.”

Both of Lexington’s girls state-qualifying relay teams will be in action Friday.

The 200 medley relay crew of