By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, January 12, 2018
Photo courtesy UK Athletics
It wasn’t long ago that Asia Seidt was a young swimmer full of promise but with limited results in the pool.
Now, nearly two years since her first Olympic Trials – where she put up solid times but didn’t advance beyond preliminaries in any of her events – Seidt sits at the doorstep of becoming a member of the next Pan Pacific and World Championship teams and potentially the 2020 Olympic team.
Of course, she has to prove it in the pool, but as far as she’s come over the past two years, she knows it’s within her reach.
“Choosing to swim at (the University of) Kentucky, my home state school, was what has largely pushed me to swim as I have been the past couple of seasons,” said Seidt, who hails from Louisville. “Lifting weights, changing my training regimen and training every day, working with great coaches and being pushed by great backstrokers have been the difference for me.
“These are five new coaches who had never watched me swim before (coming to Kentucky), so they saw technique issues and have really helped refine my stroke and build my confidence.”
It was this past summer at the Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships when Seidt saw great improvement in and opportunity for herself compared to the previous Olympic Trials.
Finishing third in her signature 200 backstroke at Nationals qualified her for a spot on the 2017 World University Games team.
Now, she’s ready to take the next step up at Phillips 66 Nationals this summer – where the 2018 Pan Pacific Championship and 2019 World Championship teams will be selected.
“Going from the club to college training was a big step up for me, just because the focus was different as was the way we did things, lifted weights, etc.,” she said. “I took to it very quickly. I started to see some positive differences right away, and it showed in my training and in my races and results.”
Seidt got her start in the sport by swimming summer league with her best friend at the local pool, but was introduced to the water by her mother when she was 4 so she would be safe around the water. By age 7, she was swimming year-round and enjoyed the social aspect of the sport.
Plus, she said she just wasn’t made for land sports.
“My hand-eye coordination was not very good, and running just wasn’t my forte; I learned that by playing soccer,” she said. “My parents wanted me to try as many sports as I wanted, but it was pretty clear to me at a young age that swimming was what I loved and what I was good at.”
A top 10 high school recruit, Seidt went on to have a great freshman NCAA season, being named the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Freshman of the Year – a first for Kentucky women’s swimming. She won the 200 backstroke, was runner-up in the 800 freestyle relay and finished third in the 100 backstroke at the conference meet to earn the recognition.
A month later at NCAAs, she earned her first All-America honor when she finished third in the 200 back and set a new school record (1:49.63). She added an eighth-place finish in the 200 individual medley and sixth-place showing as a member of the Wildcats’ 800 free relay to earn two additional first-team All-America honors.
This was a telling prelude of what was to come a few months later when she swam to a third-place finish at Nationals and earned her first U.S. National Team designation.
Seidt said she sometimes still can’t believe how fast all of these results and accolades have come – but they are something she always knew she was capable of and always wanted regardless of time.
Not bad considering there was a short time after Olympic Trials when she contemplated stopping swimming.
“I left Trials very disappointed with how I swam, but instead of stopping or giving up, my coach and I decided it made more sense for me to take a couple of weeks away from the pool so I could gain some perspective and really see how I still felt about swimming,” she said.
“I think at our core, top swimmers love swimming, but when things don’t go as we want or expect, it’s easy to have a love-hate relationship with the sport. I went through that and realized I still loved swimming and still had a lot I wanted to accomplish. I wasn’t done.”
Seidt’s performance at Nationals earned her a spot on the World University Games team last summer, and while she finished fourth and just out of the medals in her best event (200 back), that experienced reinforced her desire for more in the sport and amplified her confidence heading into her sophomore year at Kentucky.
“WUGs was my first time out of the country, and the whole experience was awesome,” she said. “When I got my USA Swimming gear – seeing my name on the cap was surreal – I was able to experience something every swimmer dreams of doing. It was a great experience.”
Now, as she nears the conclusion on her second NCAA season, Seidt said she is looking forward to defending her SEC title and making a bigger Splash at Phillips 66 Nationals.
But as far as this year is concerned, she is really looking forward to Nationals this summer.
“The past couple of years, with all of the big meets I’ve been part of and learned from, I feel better prepared to race every time I step on the blocks,” said Seidt, a kinesiology major at Kentucky with plans to be a physical therapist.
“I’ve been happy with my mid-season swims so far, and I’m eager to see how my times are the rest of the collegiate season and then focus my training on long course for Nationals. There is a lot riding on that meet, but I know that I can handle the pressure and expectations, and I’m eager to continue to show I belong at this top level of swimming.”