The 15-year-old from Aurora, Illinois was identified with alopecia when she was simply 6 years outdated. The analysis is an autoimmune dysfunction that causes hair loss.
As Hayes adjusted to life with out hair, she hid her situation at college with wigs and hats, however she by no means hid her alopecia round her supportive Auroras Fox Valley Riptides swim group household.
To longtime Riptides Coach Nancy Hooper, Hayes’ alopecia actually was by no means a consideration.
“Right here, she may at all times simply be herself. She was simply at all times Leah to me, I did not even know there ever was a wig,” Hooper stated.
The truth is, Hooper thinks Hayes’ power and perseverance in dealing with alopecia made her a good stronger and extra pushed athlete. That inside “drive Leah has together with sheer expertise, onerous work and stable teaching has put this teen in an elite class of US swimmers,” Hooper added.
When Hooper noticed Hayes win for the primary time seven years in the past, Hooper knew she had outstanding talents. H
“We put her within the water and it took lower than a minute to see there was undoubtedly one thing method completely different than your common youngster saying, ‘I wanna be in your swim group.'” Hooper stated.
Inside two years of swimming for Hooper, Hayes did certainly start making a reputation for herself as a contender in USA Swimming.
“My first nationwide age group file was 200 freestyle once I was 10 years outdated,” Hayes stated.
Nevertheless, Hayes would go on to set many extra information, actually, her father, Tim Hayes, stated the teenager has set six nationwide age-group information in a single swim meet on the Indiana College Natatorium in Indianapolis.
“It’s so onerous to set a nationwide age-group file. What meaning is that nobody within the historical past of the game has ever swum that occasion sooner,” Hooper defined.
Hayes’ accomplishments quickly captured the eye of the nationwide media. Sports activities Illustrated Children nominated Hayes as their “SportsKid of the Yr” in 2018. She ultimately gained that honor and appeared on the quilt of the journal.
Her Riptides teammates stunned her with that information and a poster-sized model of the particular journal cowl at apply in the future at Auroras Vaughn Athletic Heart.
The Riptides teammates had been once more at Hayes’ facet after they just lately stunned her with a send-off for the June 2021 Olympic swim trials in Omaha, Nebraska. Hayes had spectacular showings, competing within the 400 I.M., 200 I.M. and 100 Freestyle however fell in need of making Staff USA for the Tokyo video games.
Hooper stated it served as a priceless coaching expertise for Hayes.
“We already discuss in regards to the subsequent Olympic trials. We need to tackle the following trials in a a lot stronger method,” Hooper stated.
For now, Hayes will sustain a tricky exercise routine with the Riptides. As for her Olympic aspirations, the highschool sophomore stated, ‘it has been my dream ever since I began swimming.
“She amazes me each time she will get within the pool. Something is feasible,” stated Hayes’ mother Jill.