13-year old American swimmer Leah Hayes of Sugar Grove, Illinois has been named the 2018 Sports Illustrated SportsKid of the Year.
Sports Illustrated outlines her biggest successes both inside and outside the pool in their article. That includes 4 National Age Group Records, including one set earlier this year in the 400 yard IM (4:20.03) – the fastest-ever swum by an 11-12 girl.
It also talks about how Hayes has dealt with her alopecia – a condition that causes hair loss – including recounting the story of when stood in her school cafeteria and first explained to her classmates her condition after her wig kept falling off, and the inspirational support that she received from her classmates after her announcement.
Meet record-breaking swimmer Leah Hayes, our 2018 SportsKid of the Year!
🗒️🖊️ by @jaf78 and 📸 by @DonaldMiralle https://t.co/K4rxyIgXzu pic.twitter.com/rC222DWfx9
— SI KIDS (@SIKids) November 23, 2018
The story also shares Hayes’ ‘next big goal,’ which is to make the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Team, which will fall 2 months before her 15th birthday. As a 12-year old last year, Hayes ranked 182nd nationally in the 400 meter IM (4:58.09) and 129th in the 200 IM (2:19.57) – her two best-ranked events. She was the top-ranked 12-year old in those races, however, by more than 10 seconds in the 400 IM and by almost 4 seconds in the 200 IM.
She’s got a ways to go to make the Olympic Team – where it will take sub-4:35 in the 400 IM and sub-2:10 in the 200 IM – but at still only 13-years old those kind of drops aren’t out of reach.