Superstar Swimmer Reece Whitley is the Sports Illustrated Kids 2015 SportsKid of the Year

by LP Green, II

Sports Illustrated Kids has named Reece Whitley of Lafayette Hill, PA, the 2015 SportsKid of the Year. Reece, who was selected from among thousands of entries, is the cover story of the December issue of Sports Illustrated Kids, on newsstands tomorrow and available online at

Mark Bechtel, Managing Editor of Sports Illustrated Kids, said, “Reece embodies all the qualities of what it means to be SportsKid of the Year. Of course, he’s a talented and committed athlete with a great attitude, but he’s also kind, and generous, and he genuinely cares about helping others and bettering the world around him.”

An all-around athlete who has excelled in basketball and baseball, Reece found his calling as a swimmer where he’s breaking records and becoming an ambassador for the sport. This year, he won the 200-meter breaststroke at the 2015 Speedo Junior National Championships and came in second in the 100-meter breaststroke at the 2015 FINA World Junior Championships. He’ll be competing in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials this June.

“I’ve had so much fun watching him grow, continue to love the sport, and advocate for the sport,” says Crystal Keelan, head coach at Penn Charter Aquatic Club. “As he’s maturing, he’s wanting to spread the word about swimming and making connections with people of all ages.”

A sophomore at William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, Reece is a role model for young swimmers in his community and wherever he travels. He mentors younger kids during their practices and offers advice to help them stay focused. As Reece said, “Making an impact on a young swimmer at a meet is probably more important than the times that you swim. All these records are meant to be broken, but if you change a kid’s life or if you put a smile on a kid’s face because you took a picture with them, that never dies.”

Olympic champion Michael Phelps said, “Getting to know Reece a little bit, he’s incredible. The guy is very talented, he’s super relaxed, super outgoing, just kind of go-with-the-flow. He’s seeing results, he’s having fun, he’s enjoying himself. He’s a stud.”

The annual SportsKid of the Year award was introduced in 2007 to recognize young athletes who excel on the field, in the classroom and in service to their communities. Past recipients include:

2014: Mo’ne Davis (Philadelphia, PA) – Davis, the honor roll student who became only the fourth girl in history to play in the Little League World Series, the first girl in 75 years to win a game in the Little League World Series and the first girl to pitch a shutout in the World Series, illustrated for the world that no matter age, gender or race, everyone has the ability to make an impact and inspire.

2013: Jack Wellman (Newtown, CT) – A three-sport star, while sidelined with a neck injury uplifted the Newtown community by volunteer coaching the local youth wresting team in the aftermath of a tragedy that took one of their teammates.

2012: Brothers Conner and Cayden Long (White House, TN) – The elder Connor competes in youth triathlons side-by-side with his brother Cayden, who suffers from cerebral palsy. Connor pushes Cayden in a stroller during the run portion of the competition, and he pulls Cayden in a raft during the swim and in a trailer during the bike race.

2011: Noah Flegel (Lighthouse Point, FL) – Flegel, who won the World Wakeboard Association’s World Championship, was equally impressive in the classroom and also dedicated much of his time to organizing and cooking meals for the homeless in his community.

2010: Jessica Aney (Rochester, MN) – Aney became the first female to receive the honor. A two-sport athlete, with a perfect academic record, Jessica was one of the top-ranked tennis players nationally in her age group and excelled at an elite level in ice hockey.

2009: Austin McCarthy (Ludington, MI) – McCarthy scored 430 points with 63 hat tricks in only three years of playing ice hockey. Off the ice, Austin was very involved in his community, working at a number of fundraising events to help raise money for his local hockey association and to help boost interest in hockey among other local children.

2008: Derek Andrews (Buffalo, NY) – Despite suffering from an unknown muscle disorder, Andrews inspired the entire city of Buffalo through his participation in baseball, hockey, soccer, swimming and gymnastics.

2007: Brock Heffron (Chandler, AZ) – Heffron became the International Cycling Union World Champion and the USA Cycling Champion in his age class. Away from the track he was a straight-A student and played on local football and baseball teams.

Reece will be honored—along with the Sports Illustrated 2015 Sportsman of the Year and the 2015 Muhammad Ali Legacy Award recipient—at the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year event in New York City on December 15.


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