The 15-year-old from Aurora, Illinois was recognized with alopecia when she was simply 6 years outdated. The prognosis is an autoimmune dysfunction that causes hair loss.
As Hayes adjusted to life with out hair, she hid her situation in school with wigs and hats, however she by no means hid her alopecia round her supportive Auroras Fox Valley Riptides swim workforce 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 an excellent stronger and extra pushed athlete. That inner “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 exceptional talents. H
“We put her within the water and it took lower than a minute to see there was undoubtedly one thing method totally different than your common baby saying, ‘I wanna be in your swim workforce.'” 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“My first nationwide age group document was 200 freestyle after I was 10 years outdated,” Hayes stated.
Nonetheless, Hayes would go on to set many extra data, in truth, her father, Tim Hayes, stated the teenager has set six nationwide age-group data in a single swim meet on the Indiana College Natatorium in Indianapolis.
“It’s so onerous to set a nationwide age-group document. What meaning is that nobody within the historical past of the game has ever swum that occasion quicker,” Hooper defined.
Hayes’ accomplishments quickly captured the eye of the nationwide media. Sports activities Illustrated Children nominated Hayes as their “SportsKid of the 12 months” in 2018. She ultimately gained that honor and appeared on the quilt of the journal.
Her Riptides teammates shocked her with that information and a poster-sized model of the particular journal cowl at follow sooner or later at Auroras Vaughn Athletic Middle.
The Riptides teammates had been once more at Hayes’ aspect once they just lately shocked 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 Workforce USA for the Tokyo video games.
Hooper stated it served as a worthwhile coaching expertise for Hayes.
“We already speak concerning the subsequent Olympic trials. We wish 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.