University of California-Berkeley junior Reece Whitley OPC '18 was named Scholar-Athlete of the Week by Berkeley’s Athletic Study Center on March 1. Whitley, 21, is a nationally renowned swimmer and committed advocate for social justice.
A statement from Berkeley’s Athletic Study Center cited Whitley’s “athletics and academic excellence” and record of “cultivating accountability for diversity, inclusivity, and advocacy within and outside the Cal community.”
“He has leaned on actively sharing his own lived experiences, while simultaneously listening to various voices and perspectives,” the statement continued. “His dedication to empowering others via social change is truly inspiring!” Read the full statement below.
A native of Lafayette Hill, Pa., Whitley has been leaving his mark on the competitive swimming world since age 12, when he broke his first national age-group record. He would go on to break 22 more while competing with the Penn Charter Aquatics Club and PC’s varsity swimming and diving team. In 2015 he was named Sports Illustrated’s SportsKid of the Year.
More recently, Whitley has been a vocal advocate for Black swimmers, serving as a core member of USA Swimming’s Black Leadership in Aquatics Coalition (BLAC). His work with that organization has brought Whitley to swim clubs around the country to speak about race and equity in the sport. After the historic Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, Whitley published an article on Berkeley’s website describing his commitment to racial justice within the swimming community and beyond.
During the 2019-20 season, Whitley, a Business Administration major, was named freshman swimmer of the year by the Pacific-12 Conference and also made the Pac-12’s academic honor roll. That season he helped lead Cal to its third straight Pac-12 Championship, picking up 62 total points in individual and relay competition and winning the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke events outright. His time in the 200-meter breaststroke broke the Pac-12 championship record.
Whitley finished as a semifinalist in the 2016 Olympic trials, and this June he will attempt to qualify for the rescheduled Tokyo games, where his coach at Berkeley, David Durden, will be leading Team USA. Trials will be held in Omaha, Nebr., from June 13-20.