POULSBO — The North Kitsap swim team could quite possibly be the only team in the state with a half-whale, half-high school swimmer on its roster.
Jeffrey Reeves, a two-time state competitor looking for a third trip in his senior year at NKHS, took his first dive because of the immense sea mammals and has been very closely connected with them ever since.
At the age of two, on a trip to the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Reeves found his special bond with whales when he befriended trainer Nolan Harvey.
Harvey was a chief member of the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation, which rescued Keiko from a Mexican amusement park and reintroduced the orca into the Norwegian wild. Upon meeting Reeves and seeing his psychic bond with the whales, he took the then-three year old by the hand and led him into his fascination.
“(Harvey) said, ‘Jeffrey’s heart, it’s like the animals know,’” Reeves’ adoptive mother Noreen Reeves said. “And it’s not just animals it’s whales. That’s what we called him ‘the Whale Boy.’”
Through his work with Harvey, Reeves developed bonds with a few whales, including Keiko.
“I think the most bizarre thing is that in all of Norway’s 10,000 mile coast, Keiko chose 20 minutes way from my family farm — and the only family members that Jeffrey knows, live at that farm,” she added. “And (Keiko) would go and visit, and that was where he died.”
Throughout a series of events in which the adolescent Reeves was able to command the sea mammals with more authority than professional trainers, he found his calling.
“I know for a fact, I’m going to get my masters in marine mammal rehabilitation,” said a confident Reeves.
Self-professed, Reeves is the type of person who once he has his mind set on something, he will go all out to achieve it. Much like charting his life course toward swimming with the whales, Reeves has likewise charted a course in the competitive pool.
Following graduation, Reeves said he plans to stick around the West Sound for a year, attending classes at Olympic College in order to train for nationals with the Tacoma Swim Club which he has been a member of for almost 10 years. Then he plans to continue his quest.
“You could say I was always meant to be in the water,” he said. “(Swimming) is something that a lot of people don’t like pursuing for long periods of time, but I haven’t lost my passion, so I’m going to keep doing it until I have no passion left.”
Reeves’ passion, mixed with some heavy influence, has led him to the leadership lane of the North Kitsap High School pool as he eyes state qualifying times in the 200 and 500 freestyle events. Already, he’s captured the time for the 100 backstroke — his strong suit.
“Originally I was a butterflyer,” he noted.
Then at the around the age of eight, while swimming for the Poulsbo Pirhanas, Noreen invited an old friend to instruct her son.
That old friend just happened to be the winningest coach in the history of high school swimming, and the founder of the Tacoma Swim Club — Dick Hanula.
“He really put a whole lot into me when I was starting to want to get out of swimming,” Reeves said, noting both Hanula and Harvey as two of his biggest aquatic influences.
“What Nolan (Harvey) did was he took Jeffrey by the hand and he listened,” Noreen noted of Jeff’s marine biology influence. “He listened to what he wanted to do, what his dream was and he’s fed that dream.”
Now, Reeves studies marine biology and oceanography at Olympic College, and has also earned his professional diving certificate on his way to accomplishing his dream.
“The exact wording I said when I was young was that ‘I was going to be Superman to save the whales,’” Reeves said. “It’s amazing what can happen, when you are young who you befriend and the connections you’ll have when you get older.”