15-year-old Reece Whitley is one of the most-talked about young swimmers on the American scene right now. Whitley is hard to miss on the pool deck – he stands at an imposing 6-foot-8 – but even harder to overlook are his times, which are starting to move into the elite level of American breaststrokers of any age.
He swam at last month’s Arena Pro Swim Series meet in Charlotte, crushing lifetime-bests of 1:01.86 in the 100 breast and 2:12.92 in the 200 breast.
We caught up with Whitley’s coach Crystal Coleman (formerly Crystal Keelan) of the Penn Charter Aquatic Club to get some insights into Whitley’s training and the duo’s plans for the coming season.
We talked with Coleman at length last summer, profiling Whitley’s training at Penn Charter Aquatic Club, complete with some specific sets the team does regularly. You can check out that profile here.
SwimSwam: Reece obviously had a breakout long course meet in Charlotte. Have you guys worked anything new into his training, or focused on any major details you feel brought about those big drops?
Colema: Right now, a big focus in the water is working on maintaining tempo throughout sets and when he races. We have also added additional dry land strength and core work into his schedule and his progress has been impressive. There seems to be a misconception that Reece has little experience with long course, but in fact Reece has actually been training and competing in long course during the summer since he was 9 years old. He enjoys aspects of both short course and long course. Comparatively, his short course has actually been catching up to his long course times due to his extensive work on his walls and underwater
SwimSwam: Reece’s height is a big topic of conversation, especially in breaststroke where you don’t see swimmers of that size very often. How tall is Reece at this point, and is there anything you two have had to change technically to account for his long frame or to take advantage of his height more?
Coleman: Reece has always been able to utilize his height and size more in the short axis strokes. Now, at 6’8″, technique plays a huge role in his continued success. Reece and I continue to have weekly private lessons to stay on top of his technique. With his length it is extremely important to make sure he can feel his stroke so he can maintain stroke technique during all training sets. I am not a coach that believes in “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. We are persistent in making changes and tweaking his stroke as needed as he grows.
SwimSwam: What’s the major “focus meet” for the summer? Any bigger meets coming up on the schedule?
Coleman: Reece’s big focus for the summer is Nationals.
SwimSwam: Last time we talked, you mentioned that Reece was still committed to improving all four strokes, and we’ve seen him put up some nice IM times, though his breaststroke races are still his standout events. Is he starting to focus more specifically on breaststroke, or is IM improvement still a big part of his training?
Coleman: IM work and improving his IM have always been a big part of his training and it’s an aspect of swimming that continues to motivate Reece. I have started steering his training more towards breaststroke, since those are his primary events at National level meets, but he continues to train all four strokes regularly.
SwimSwam: Any major goals you two have set for the next year to year-and-a-half?
Coleman: Reece and I like to keep our goals private. But he trains with those goals in mind every day, every practice and every set (and if not I tend to remind him). He plans to continue putting in the time to work towards his goals, and we will see what the next year brings.