Swimming to Asia

Larry Vaught


If you are looking for inspiration about what determination can do for an athlete, say hello to University of Kentucky swimmer Asia Seidt.

She’s an eight-time first-team All-American, 2019 Southeastern Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year and 2019 Arthur Ashe Female Sports Scholar of the Year.

Not bad for someone who wasn’t sure as a youngster that she would ever find a sport where she could succeed.

“I started in T-ball when I was a kid. I was actually terrible. My mom pulled me out of that. We're part of a neighborhood pool and she said she just literally threw me in one day to see what happened and I ended up falling in love with the water,” said Seidt, a four-time SEC champion. “I have been competitively swimming since I was 6. That’s really the only thing I have ever done. I am not very good with hand-eye coordination type stuff. Soccer and baseball were not really my thing.”

Seidt’s mother swam in high school but the UK senior says her mother “really didn’t do sports” and had no idea her daughter would become an All-American.

“My family jokes that I was a little short, chunky kid and wasn’t very good at swimming at first,” Seidt said.

About age 12 she had a “huge” growth spurt and moved up to the highest level on her club team. She started training more and participated in her first multi-state competition.

“That was the first championship I ever won. From there, I loved winning and I hated losing. I just realized then it was something I wanted to do, especially in college,” she said.

Seidt is a two-time USA Swimming national team member (2017, 2018) as well as a two-time World University Games participant (2018, 2019). She’s part of nine UK school records going into her senior season. She never envisioned anything close to the success she’s had.

“It has absolutely exceeded what I thought. I definitely had goals coming into college about what I wanted to do but I wasn’t highly recruited. Some coaches turned me away because I wasn’t fast enough,” she said. “I think that actually motivated me more because some thought I was not good enough.”

Kentucky coach Lars Jorgensen, a 1988 Olympian, “believed” in Seidt and emphasized that during a home visit that convinced her to come to Kentucky.

“I may not have been the fastest in high school but with his training, I am able to be almost one of the fastest now,” Seidt, who has won the SEC 200-meter backstroke three straight years, said.

Becoming a Wildcat for an athlete that grew up in Louisville was not hard.

“I would say I was never a Louisville fan. My parents cheered for Kentucky but my mom grew up in California, so she doesn’t have any real ties to Kentucky,” Seidt, who has a 3.6 grade-point average, said. “When I got recruited, I fell in love with Kentucky and my entire family is Kentucky fans now. I think we have everything you could possibly have Kentucky-wise at our house.”

Kentucky’s campus is filled with high profile athletes in various sports. Seidt’s resume certainly is the equal of anyone on campus but she doesn’t see herself that way. In fact, the one thing she hopes people know about her is that she is not that special.

“Coming into college, I was scared. I didn’t look at schools because I didn’t think I was smart enough or wasn’t good enough to swim there,” Seidt said. “Looking back, that was such a frustrating time for me. I wish I could tell people who are in that situation to just believe in yourself. If you want to do it, you can do it.

“That is my goal to swim fast, be smart, work hard in the community and luckily, I can do that with the resources that Kentucky provides. If I had to put a message out there, I would just hope people believed in themselves or had more confidence in their ability to do things. It is possible obviously to do things you didn’t think you could. Look at me. I can do it and a lot of other athletes on this campus can do it, so always believe you can do that, too.”