PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) Philadelphia may not have had its greatest sports year ever in 2015, but thanks to a 15-year-old swimmer, the region isn’t completely without athletic accolades this year.
"I think it's incredible," said Reece Whitley. At just 15 years old but standing 6'8" he's landed a prestigious title: 2015 Sports Kid of The Year and the cover of Sports Illustrated Kids.
"I think it's something to be grateful for," he said.
The William Penn Charter sophomore is a competitive and record breaking swimmer who has also excelled in basketball and baseball. He also mentors other young athletes. He says he's honored.
"I am 6'8'' and African American which is uncommon in swimming so I think those are other things that helped me to receive this award today because I know that there are so many other swimmers that could have received this award," said Reece.
But the road to Sports Illustrated Kids isn't an easy one.
"Monday, Wednesday and Friday I'm in the weight room here at school at 6am. I'll go to school from 8 o'clock to about 3 o'clock and then I'll get in the pool at 6 and that ends at 8:30. So it's a long day," said Reece. His coach Crystal Coleman says what stands out about Reece even more than his height is his love and dedication to the sport.
"It's a grueling sport and it's not easy. It's not one of those sports where you can practice once a week and go to a game or go to a meet," said Coleman, Head Coach of Penn Charter Aquatic Club.
Reece says he doesn't expect to be swimming past his mid 20's so school is important.
"Hopefully academics can take me somewhere outside of the pool but you know in the short term I think I could see myself possibly making World Championship or maybe get lucky and make an Olympic team."
His mom says whatever he does is enough for her.
"Reece has worked so hard and is so focused in and out of the pool that even if this hadn't happened I'm still an extremely proud mom," said Kim Smith-Whitley.