Pictured: Ray Romero ( Ft. Myers High School), Taylor Thomas (State Champ for Estero 800m), Matt and Mike Whaley (Estero HS), Samir Perez ( XC State Champ for Charlotte HS)
23 years after last competing for Estero High, Matt Whaley, will be inducted into the Lee County Athletic Conference Hall of Fame on April 25, 2019.
Whaley will be the third member of the DDD family to be inducted, following Bona Jones-Bame and the late Coach Jeff Sommer. Whaley was a staple in cross country and track in the pre-MileSplit world of the Florida running in the 90s.
Whaley and his twin brother Mike were key in putting Estero High School and DDD on the map.
As freshmen in 1992, the Whaley brothers were part of Coach Jeff Sommer's first, of what would become 8, cross country championship teams. The Tri-County area of Lee-Collier-Charlotte in that era produced many state titles and great teams, with Estero out on top a majority of the time -- thanks to the foundations laid by Coach Sommer and the Whaley twins.
At that time, it was only the top seven individuals and top four teams that would advance from the regional meet to the state finals, making it far more difficult to even make it there. Matt went on to win a state title in the 3200m -- twice -- 1600m in track, and win many district and region titles in between.
Whaley was successful as an individual and with his team while in high school, and adding an All-American accolade in the 3000m to his name in 1995.
Former teammates, coaches, and fellow athletes label Whaley as one of the fiercest competitors the area has ever had the pleasure to race with.
After high school, Whaley attended the University of South Florida where he competed in three NCAA Cross Country Championships and qualified in the 5k and 10K for Conference USA in track.
"Matt simply loved to train," former college coach and mentor, Bob Braman said. "He loved the process as much as the results and I think that's what allowed him to become an All-Conference USA and All-Region Athlete."
Whaley's competitive and hard-working nature was contagious to all those around him.
"My brother loved to win, he was competitive in everything we did and still is," Whaley's twin brother, Mike Whaley said.
For Whaley, his induction into the Lee County Hall of Fame means far more to him when looking back at those who have had such an impact on his life and athletic careers.
"It's and honor to get into the hall of fame. It wasn't an individual effort. It was the people I surrounded myself with that helped me achieve this honor. Family, friends/ teammates and Coach Sommer," Whaley said.
Whaley graduated in 2001 with a Bachelors Degree in Interdisciplinary Social Science and went on to be an assistant coach at Florida State University from 2001-2003. He currently resides in Naples, FL and recently married his longtime girlfriend, Marieli.