15-Year-Old Olympic Hopeful Wins for His Talent, Humility, and
Willingness to Mentor Younger Athletes in the Sport
NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Time Inc.’s 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 www.sikids.com/skoty.
This is the first of several upcoming announcements for the SI Kids
franchise. In early 2016, look for the relaunch of its SIKids.com
Reece was interviewed on ABC’s Good Morning America today about this
honor, and the Office of the First Lady Michelle Obama, congratulated
Reece via Twitter: “Congrats @_reecewhitley
on becoming @SIKids
of the Year. We are so proud of you! SIKIDS.com/skoty
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
“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
About the Sports Illustrated Group’s SI Kids Franchise
Sports Illustrated Kids, the first sports magazine written for kids ages
8 and up, connects with its readers through their passion for sports.
The magazine offers kids the access to athletes and sports information
that they want with in-depth reporting, action photography, first-person
athlete accounts and other features. The magazine, books, and web site
sikids.com, promote positive values, good sportsmanship and the fun of
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