Reece Whitley on Resurgence After Reflection: ‘Fresh Perspective Changed My Outlook’

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Reece Whitley on Resurgence After Reflection: ‘Fresh Perspective Changed My Outlook’

Reece Whitley was at a crossroads.

After helping Cal win the NCAA championship as a senior, there were plenty of options, ranging from coming back for a fifth year because of the pandemic, to turning pro, to retiring.

Whitley took a long time to make sure he made the right decision.

“This summer, I had to do some things for myself, which are done. I kept my tone in the water, but I really had to find my ‘Why?’ Why do you do this? What is the point of a fifth year for me? I love my team more than anything else, but there has to be a a personal aspect there, so I had to find that,” Whitley said.

“It has allowed me to have a fresh perspective on this sport and my place in the sport. To be racing the world’s best, it is incredible. This environment has changed my outlook inside and outside the pool.”

That outlook changed during the 2022 FINA World Cup as Whitley put together some extremely fast in-season times in short-course meters. At the Indianapolis stop of the World Cup, he won the silver medal in the 200 breaststroke (2:04.73), the bronze in the 100 breaststroke (57.14) and finished sixth in the 50 breaststroke (26.73).

“It has been a long three weeks, but I am definitely a different swimmer on the tail end of these three weeks than I was when it started. I don’t know how some of these guys go three clusters of this. It is pretty incredible,” Whitley said. “There is so much to learn when it comes to racing. It has been since March for me. I was just taking this in stride with no expectations, but once it got going, it was pretty easy to get motivated. Moving through the ebbs and flows with the travel, I am really lucky to earn this opportunity and do well. I am really grateful.”

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

It was a rare opportunity for someone in the middle of their college season to drop everything and travel for some meets. But it proved as worth it as Cal coach Dave Durden expected.

“In this fifth year, I wanted to experiment as much as I could,” Whitley said. “Durden brought it to me by the end of the summer. He wanted me to do this. It was always in the cards for me to try this out. When you push the discomfort as far as it is now, you’ll probably make it easier in midseason and toward NCAAs.”

Now, Whitley is looking to channel this success forward to the rest of his final college season, and beyond.

“I am looking to see how I can take this now, and take this back to the team and help them find benefits,” he said. “Maybe watching me swim and (Ryan) Murphy and the ladies, that will help them find something.”

One thing is for sure: Whitley found something within himself at the World Cup and it is validation that he made the right move to come back.

World Cup Results

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