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AURORA, Ill. -- The excavation has ever been the spot wherever prima teen swimmer Leah Hayes could truly beryllium herself!
The 15-year-old from Aurora, Illinois was diagnosed with alopecia erstwhile she was conscionable 6 years old. The diagnosis is an autoimmune upset that causes hairsbreadth loss.
As Hayes adjusted to beingness without hair, she concealed her information astatine schoolhouse with wigs and hats, but she ne'er hid her alopecia astir her supportive Auroras Fox Valley Riptides aquatics squad family.
To longtime Riptides Coach Nancy Hooper, Hayes' alopecia truly was ne'er a consideration.
"Here, she could ever conscionable beryllium herself. She was conscionable ever Leah to me, I didn't adjacent cognize determination ever was a wig," Hooper said.
In fact, Hooper thinks Hayes' spot and perseverance successful coping with alopecia made her an adjacent stronger and much driven athlete. That interior "drive Leah has on with sheer talent, hard enactment and coagulated coaching has enactment this teen successful an elite people of US swimmers," Hooper added.
When Hooper saw Hayes triumph for the archetypal clip 7 years ago, Hooper knew she had singular abilities. H
"We enactment her successful the h2o and it took little than a infinitesimal to spot determination was decidedly thing mode antithetic than your mean kid saying, 'I wanna beryllium connected your aquatics team.'" Hooper said.
Within 2 years of swimming for Hooper, Hayes did so statesman making a sanction for herself arsenic a contender successful USA Swimming.
"My archetypal nationalist property radical grounds was 200 freestyle erstwhile I was 10 years old," Hayes said.
However, Hayes would spell connected to acceptable galore much records, successful fact, her father, Tim Hayes, said the teen has acceptable six nationalist age-group records successful 1 aquatics conscionable astatine the Indiana University Natatorium successful Indianapolis.
"It is truthful hard to acceptable a nationalist age-group record. What that means is that nary 1 successful the past of the athletics has ever swum that lawsuit faster," Hooper explained.
Hayes' accomplishments soon captured the attraction of the nationalist media. Sports Illustrated Kids nominated Hayes arsenic their "SportsKid of the Year" successful 2018. She yet won that grant and appeared connected the screen of the magazine.
Her Riptides teammates amazed her with that quality and a poster-sized mentation of the existent mag screen astatine signifier 1 time astatine Auroras Vaughn Athletic Center.
The Riptides teammates were again astatine Hayes' broadside erstwhile they precocious amazed her with a send-off for the June 2021 Olympic aquatics trials successful Omaha, Nebraska. Hayes had awesome showings, competing successful the 400 I.M., 200 I.M. and 100 Freestyle but fell abbreviated of making Team USA for the Tokyo games.
Hooper said it served arsenic a invaluable grooming acquisition for Hayes.
"We already speech astir the adjacent Olympic trials. We privation to instrumentality connected the adjacent trials successful a overmuch stronger way," Hooper said.
For now, Hayes volition support up a pugnacious workout regimen with the Riptides. As for her Olympic aspirations, the precocious schoolhouse sophomore said, 'it's been my imagination ever since I started swimming.
"She amazes maine each clip she gets successful the pool. Anything is possible," said Hayes' ma Jill.