Leah Hayes Reflects On Her Experience at the 2023 World Junior Championships


Leah Hayes Reflects On Her Experience at the 2023 World Junior Championships

Over the past couple of years, Leah Hayes has emerged as a rising star within the United States ranks. Recently, the high school senior and USA National Team member won five medals, including three gold, at the 2023 World Junior Championships.

Prior to her stint in Netanya, Israel, Hayes placed second in the 200 individual medley at the 2022 International Team Trials, securing a spot on the World Championships roster for that year. In Budapest, she earned a bronze medal in the event while breaking the World Junior Record in the process. Because of this swim, she won USA Swimming’s Breakout Performer of the Year at the 2022 Golden Goggles.

Although Hayes did not qualify for the World Championships this year, she still performed exceptionally well. She swept the women’s medley events at World Juniors, going 4:36.84 in the 400 IM and 2:10.24 in the 200 IM. Each was a championship record. She was also part of the victorious 800 freestyle relay, splitting 1:57.86. Additionally, Hayes took bronze in the 200 free (1:58.19) and was the leadoff leg of the silver-medal-winning 400 free relay in 54.96.

Swimming World asked Hayes a few questions about her experience and performances at the World Junior Championships.

How did you prepare for the World Champs Trials? What do you think aided you in the transition to Junior Worlds?

Leah Hayes: “I did my regular taper, dropped doubles, and lessened the intensity of my dryland in preparation for Nationals. One of the things that helped my transition to World Juniors was actually taking a break from swimming for a few days. I realized (I needed) to relax a bit after such an intense meet, so I took four days off, and it was really refreshing.”

How did you feel when you were nominated as captain and to be a “senior leader” on such a young team?

Hayes: “It was an honor and a joy to be captain for the Junior team. I was fortunately able to see great examples of (senior) captains…the year previous.”

Being an international team veteran, did you manage to impact any of the rookie members of the team?

Hayes: “Having been to a couple of international meets, I was able to help some of my teammates cope with anxiety and stress about being on the international stage for the first time.”

From an outside view, your performance at Junior Worlds was phenomenal, but how did you feel personally about your performance?

Hayes: “It was good. I had two swims where I was happy with my times, but I would’ve liked to have had faster times in my other events. But overall, it was such an honor to swim for the U.S. and be on podium for (the team).”

With the success of Team USA at World Juniors, what do you think this means for the future of USA Swimming?

Hayes: “The US Junior Team dominating World Juniors only goes to show the future success of USA Swimming.”

The 2023 USA World Junior team finished on top of the medal table with 15 golds, 11 silvers, and 7 bronze medals. Other notable swims from Team USA included Maximus Williamson’s 200 IM. Williamson’s time of 1:57.29 was three-tenths off the World Junior Record and would have qualified him for the World Championships at U.S. Nationals. High school junior Teagan O’Dell swam a blistering 2:08.09 in the women’s 200 backstroke en route to gold. Although it would have taken faster to qualify for the World Championships at U.S. Nationals, the time would have placed her easily into the final in Fukuoka, Japan.

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2 months ago

I love this atical! I want to be a swimmer when I grow up.

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