By CAMIRAN MOORE, UK Athletics
I came to college not really having expectations of what I would do, but I can say without a doubt, I never thought I would be where I am as a swimmer today. – Asia Seidt
Of all swimmers and divers – male or female – who have ever come through the University of Kentucky swimming and diving program, Asia Seidt holds the most records. Seidt has earned more All-America honors, NCAA Championship podium finishes, Southeastern Conference Championship medals and All-SEC First Team selections than any UK swimmer or diver, man or woman, that has come before her.
Take a deep breath before you read the next paragraph – you may need it.
In her (nearly four) years at Kentucky, the Louisville native has earned 21 All-America honors, 15 SEC Championship medals, eight NCAA Championship podium finishes, four conference titles, one USA Swimming Summer Nationals gold medal and one World University Games silver medal. Seidt holds five individual school records, was twice named to the USA Swimming National Team, twice qualified for Team USA Olympic Trials, was three times named to the All-SEC First Team, is an ELITE 90 recipient and an Arthur Ashe Female Sports Scholar of the Year recipient.
Oh, and one more thing, she did all of that while maintaining a 4.0 cumulative grade-point average and earning a Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology with the highest honors.
Sounds pretty good, right?
To think, she drafted that resume with just three trips to the “big dance”, the NCAA Championships. Seidt’s decorated swimming career was cut short one week before the start of her last NCAA Championships because of the COVID-19 threat. With that, her final opportunity to win a national title was gone.
“I know it’s a big goal, but it was something that I was ready to fight for this year,” Seidt said. “I wanted it so much. I can’t really put into words how bad I wanted it, and I knew that it was most likely going to take an American record to win that title, but I was ready for it, and I had been training for it. My training before the NCAA Championships was better than it had ever been, and I was really starting to believe in myself and believe that I could do it.”
One week ahead of the cancelled NCAA Championships, Seidt had three individual events ranked in the nation’s top seven, with her best event, the 200 backstroke, listing third in the nation with a seed time (1:48.86, 2020 SEC Championships) that wasn’t even her career best (1:48.65, 2019 NCAA Championships).
Her skill and training at the time, combined with her experience, made her an ideal candidate to touch the wall in record time and earn a national title. Since her freshman appearance at the NCAA Championships, she had two bronze finishes and one silver finish in the event, combined with being crowned the SEC Champion in the event for three straight seasons (2017-19).
While unfinished business will have to remain unfinished, Seidt is grateful for the abundant opportunities she did have in her career – opportunities that led to a crowded hardware shelf.
“One of those was being able to represent the United States on the national stage,” Seidt said, referring to the 2019 World University Games in Naples, Italy. “Being able to have the American Flag on your cap in swimming is such a great honor. To be in that environment, and to have the support of the United States behind you was an incredible feeling.”
Seidt was one of two swimmers in the nation selected to represent Team USA in the 200 backstroke field at the biannual meet, joining former Texas A&M standout Lisa Bratton.
“I think my semifinals race was one of the best races I have ever had as a swimmer. I just turned my mind off, and with athletes, your mind is one of your most powerful tools, it can really help you or it can really hurt you in a race,” Seidt said. “I talked to Lars before the event and he said, ‘You still have one more chance after this, you know you can make it into finals, just turn your mind off and see what you can do.’”
Seidt did just that.
When she raised her head out of the water after her 200 backstroke semifinals race, she had set the World University Games record on a lifetime best (2:08.81) and earned the top seed ahead of the finals race. She went on to reset her lifetime best once again (2:08.56), earning a silver medal for Team USA and recording the fifth-fastest time by an American swimmer in 2019.
Less than a month after returning to the United States, she won Kentucky’s first-ever gold medal at the USA Swimming’s 2019 Phillips 66 National Championships in none other than the 200 backstroke. It was the first time she had ever tapered for back-to-back major championships, and it’s safe to assume it worked out alright for her.
“I would say excellence is a hard thing to aim for and achieve,” Seidt said. “To put forth your best effort, to show up and do the work, I think is one of the most important things that anyone, a student or an athlete, can do.”
Seidt’s ability to do exactly that has helped her achieve a high level of success in and out of the pool. While maintaining a demanding training schedule and a rigorous course load in kinesiology, she has completed more than 450 hours of professional shadowing, helping her to land a coveted spot in the University of Kentucky’s Physical Therapy Graduate Program. Meanwhile, she also plans to compete at the postponed 2021 U.S Olympic Trials.
From growing up swimming in a 3.2-million-gallon lake enclosed on two sides by 40-foot cliffs at the Kentucky Hall of Fame Lakeside Swim Club, a program that has produced 10 Olympians, to wearing an American Flag on her cap, representing UK, Seidt is the most decorated student-athlete to come out of the UK swimming and diving program and is a home state hero.
A list of her accomplishments is as follows:
- 4.0 GPA, B.S. in Kinesiology
- 2016, 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier
- 21-time All-American
- 2019 Gold Medalist at Phillips 66 National Championships in 200 Backstroke
- 2019 Silver Medalist at Phillips 66 National Championships in 400 Medley Relay
- 2019 Silver Medalist at World University Games (Team USA) in 200 Backstroke
- 2019 NCAA Elite 90 recipient
- 2019 Arthur Ashe Female Sports Scholar of the Year
- 2019 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars First Team
- 2019 SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year
- 2017-18, 2018-19 USA Swimming National Team
- 2018, 2019 U.S. World University Games Team
- 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 NCAA qualifier
- 2017, 2018, 2019 All-SEC First Team, 2020 All-SEC Second Team, 2017 SEC All-Freshman Team
- 2017, 2018, 2019 SEC Champion in 200 Backstroke
- 2018 SEC Champion in 100 Backstroke
- Five-time silver medalist at SEC Championships
- Six-time bronze medalist at SEC Championships
- 2020 Frank G. Ham Society of Character
- 2017 SEC Freshman Female Swimmer of the Year
- 2019 CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team
- 2018, 2019 CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team
- 2018, 2019, 2020 SEC Winter Academic Honor Roll
- 2017 SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll
- 2017, 2018, 2019 CSCAA Scholar All-America First Team
- Volunteered over 450 hours of professional shadowing
- Volunteered over 200 hours to community service, including The Hope Center, Kentucky Aquatics and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bluegrass