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Washington Post: Is Cal swimming commit Reece Whitley the future of Team USA?

Go Reece! Welcome to Cal!

2017 Phillips 66 National Championships & World Championship Trials - Day 5 Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

There is already a ton of buzz gathering around the newest California Golden Bears swimming commit. Reece Whitley is still only 17 years old, but there’s a lot of talk about him becoming extremely special by the time the 2020 Olympics roll around.

Obviously, Whitley’s story becomes more compelling to the national media because of his skin color. An African-American in a generally white sport, Whitley’s early success has a lot of people rooting for him to do great things.

Dana O’Neil penned a story about Whitley to the Washington Post, particularly highlighting the impact Whitley could have on young African American children that could be akin to what Simone Manuel did at the Rio Games and Cullen Jones did before both of them.

According to a recent study spearheaded by the USA Swimming Foundation, 64 percent of African American children have low to no swimming ability. That’s a 5 percent improvement since 2010 but still a dangerously high number.

Whitley has yet to experience an a-ha moment — no child has stopped him to say he or she is swimming because of him — but he knows every time he steps on the blocks he could be opening a kid’s eyes to a whole new world, not to mention a safer one.

Whitley also knows, though, that to change a sport he has to step higher than the blocks. He has to stand atop the podium.

It’s not just about race for Whitley, but producing good results as well.

Whitley’s speciality appears to be the breaststroke, where he’s already the age record holder in the 200 meter breaststroke and owns the short course record by 2.5 seconds. He went into the US nationals seeded eighth in the 200 meter breaststroke, ninth in the 50 and 11th in the 100.

Whitley wasn’t able to get a spot for the World Championships, but he will be repping Team USA at the World Junior Championships.

It’ll be exciting to see what Whitley can do, and I’m looking forward to his successful career at Cal.