"I missed the moral support that comes with having a team and coaches. I didn't have anybody in other lanes chasing me, but that's OK because I have a lot of friends in the swimming community," Whinnery said.
Whinnery was sought after by plenty of schools — ranging from small liberal arts colleges to Division I programs — before he chose Army.
Not having a coach did have some benefits, though, as nobody was there to tell Whinnery "no." He was able to experiment with some things and see what he could to push himself to the brink.
"I stayed tenacious about it. A lot of coaches were surprised I could do this at such a high level," Whinnery said.
But anyone who has watched him swim competitively knows it's not a surprise at all that Whinnery was able to succeed.
"There is definitely a sense of self-accomplishment," Whinnery said. "It was a lot harder, but I knew what I wanted."