Reece Whitley Roars to First National Title — and it’s Just the Beginning (VIDEO)

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Reece Whitley celebrates winning the national title in the 200 breast. Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

Reece Whitley touched the wall, looked up at his time and exploded with exciting emotion.

With all eyes on the 6 foot, 9 inch breaststroker for the past few years, the Cal swimmer was able to let go of all of the pressure and expectations that come from being the top high school swimmer in the country, and he let our a roar as if to exhale all of that way.

“It meant a lot. To get my hand on the wall first was great, and to see my teammates losing their minds — I know they were super excited. I told myself if I won I wasn’t going to lose my mind, but I saw them just going insane, so I had to give them something,” Whitley said.

Whitley won the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:09.69 to hold off Daniel Roy (2:10.01) on Thursday at the 2019 Phillips 66 US National Championships.

Whitley watched as a freshman as several of his Cal teammates won NCAA titles in March, helping the team win. Now it was their turn to return the favor.

“I only really get emotional when my teammates are around. The energy they bring is incredible,” he said. “Those are my brothers. I am an only child, but this year I have 35 brothers that I have worked so hard with. There is no shame in giving energy for them to feed off of for the rest of the meet. Hopefully that inspires everyone to get up and go fast. We swim our fastest when we see our teammates swim fast.”

Whitley knows he will have to be faster to achieve his goal of making the Olympic team. It is something he knew with the times posted at the world championships in Gwangju last week.

“It is great to be in my first national championship final and win my first national championship, but at the same time, I know the best breaststrokers in the U.S. aren’t really here — at least for the 200. I have a lot of room to go if I want to be where I want to be,” Whitley said.

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Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

A lot of that growth has already started with a change to his race strategy since arriving at Cal.

“It has changed a lot. The biggest thing is when I was younger, I was always applauded for taking so few strokes, but we figured out that is not always the best for me. I have been training to be 14-15-16 strokes this year. It worked out today. Hopefully, I can keep that momentum going into next summer. It is all about getting comfortable with it. You have to find your flow in breaststroke,” he said.

But a national title brings confidence. No matter who was here or not here, Whitley could do no better than first place.

“I think so (my ceiling is higher),” he said. “I have always imagined the highest for myself. I am just starting to figure that out. Hopefully the elite culture at Cal can get me where I want to be.”

And where he wants to be is looking at the scoreboard seeing a No. 1 next to his name — and letting out another roar of emotion.

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Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

11 comments

  1. avatar
    Jeannine Juskalian

    Awesome Reece, your an inspiration to all especially Tyler. Congratulations!

    • Steve Thomas

      That’s awesome! He’s a great kid!

  2. Jessica Bauer

    So cool! Used to watch him swim at EMAC meets when he was young. He’s an exciting swimmer to watch.

  3. Toni Rose

    It was an amazing race!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!