Reece Whitley announced via his Instagram on Sunday that he will be taking his 5th year of NCAA eligibility at Cal. The 5th year of eligibility was granted due to athletes who competed during the COVID-19 disrupted 2020-2021 season.
This announcement comes as a bit of a surprise, as he hinted at NCAAs that he was likely done with swimming. He did not race at U.S. International Team Trials in April, then he scratched his only event–the 100 breast–at U.S. Summer Nationals. Regardless, retaining Whitley for his fifth-year is big for the Cal Golden Bears, who are graduating a lot of points thanks to a strong fifth-year group.
Whitley helped the Bears to NCAA Championship titles in 2019 and 2022, as well as four of their five-straight PAC-12 titles. At 2022 NCAAs, Whitley scored 27 individual points, finishing fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke (50.84) and seventh in the 200-yard breaststroke (1:50.83). He also swam the breast leg on Cal’s winning 4×100 medley relay, splitting 50.64 en route to his first NCAA title.
At PAC-12s, he won the men’s 100-yard breaststroke (51.30) and placed third in the 200 breaststroke (1:50.89). He is the three-time consecutive PAC-12 champion in the 100 breaststroke.
Whitley’s Collegiate Season-Bests
|Year||100 Breast||200 Breast|
This year, Cal junior Liam Bell and Whitley finished third and fourth in the 100 breaststroke at NCAAs, respectively. With Whitley and Bell both returning, they’ll make a strong breaststroke 1-2 punch for the Bears as they attempt to defend their national title.
The biggest difference between this season’s fifth years and future season’s is the scholarship cap. In the 2021-2022 season, 5th year seniors didn’t count toward that cap unless they transferred. Starting in the 2022-2023 seasons, 5th year seniors will count against the cap, until the waiver expires.
This shift in policy for future seasons means that we will likely see fewer swimmers taking advantage of the opportunity.
Whitley graduated with a degree in Business Administration. He was named the 2022 PAC-12 Men’s Swimming & Diving Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was selected as a CoSIDA Academic All-American as a member of the men’s at-large second team.