PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Montgomery County swimmer has been named SportsKid of the Year by Sports Illustrated Kids — the second Philadelphia-area teen in as many years to win the award.
Fifteen-year-old Reece Whitley is well-known in the world of aquatics, having qualified for Olympic trials, and even dubbed “the next great American swimmer,” and now that he’s on the cover of Sports Illustrated Kids, as SportsKid of the year, he looks forward to being introduced to an even wider audience.
“I think just representing the sport as best as I can is something I’ll stay focused on,” Whitley says.
Whitley found out about the honor a few weeks ago, but had to keep it quiet. When he tried to say it was no problem keeping the secret, he got a sideways glance from his mother.
“I think it was extremely difficult to keep it quiet” she says.
Whitley’s start in swimming had a very humble beginning; he failed a deep water test at seven years old.
“I really didn’t like to be told no at that young age,” he says, “so I told mom to get me lessons.”
Now, at 15, Whitley holds national-age group records in breast stroke and is on the verge of representing the United States in Rio in 2016, as he’s qualified for Olympic Trials.
“I’m seeded within the top ten so far, so far going into the meet, and I think that’s a great position to be in,” Whitley says. “Hopefully we can capitalize.”
Even with about 16-hours each week in the pool, he’s still an A-student at Penn Charter High School. His academic adviser at school, Travis Laraby, says none of his success has gone to Whitley’s head.
“To be at the level the level he is at,” Laraby says, “and to still maintain the level of humility he has maintained is a pretty incredible accomplishment, as well.”
Whitley says there’s definitely hometown pride in earning this year’s honor. He follows Philadelphia Little League star Mo’ne Davis in winning the award.