Swimmer fights wave of health issues, acquires aquatic success

The thrill of the plunge. The splashing of cold water onto your face. Sunlight on your back as you slide effortlessly through the water, destroying the competition. These are all things that senior Asa Ayers experiences regularly as a member of the swim team. But Asa has a unique struggle that most swimmers don’t have: dangerous health issues.

“I’ve been swimming for 14 years since I was four years old,” Asa said. “I was put into swimming at a young age and I liked it a lot so I kept going.”

Swim coach Glenn Williams recognizes that Asa has faced many challenges throughout his swimming career.

“I started coaching Asa when he was about 5 or 6 years old,” Williams said. “Asa learned quickly and tried hard each day at practice. Asa has faced several health issues throughout the years, including allergies and painful attacks that would cause him to miss more than a week of school. As a result, he looked skinny and frail when he was a boy. He is still skinny, but he has grown into a tall and strong young man.”

Asa appreciates the people who have helped him through the difficulties of swimming with health conditions such as his.

“My favorite part about being on the swim team is definitely the people,” Asa said. “I’ve made a lot of friendships, and it’s a good environment.”

Williams respects Asa’s dedication and drive to always do better.

“I can put Asa in all of the hard events and he does them well,” Williams said. “He has never complained to me about hard sets or events, and he always keeps a positive attitude. I admire his ability to do it all: swim, dive, and play water polo. He leads by example and all the kids on the team like him.”

Despite his health struggles, Asa views his most difficult challenge as the typical hardships that most swimmers face.

“My most difficult challenge is just dropping time and getting faster,” Asa said. “It takes a lot of effort, but it keeps you active and healthy. Any cardio an athlete does is definitely going to them healthier, so swimming has a lot of health benefits.”

While Asa enjoys all swimming events, there are some that he favors over others.

“I like the 100 backstroke,” Asa said. “That’s my best one. I like it the most because I score higher. I’ve done both diving and water polo. I dove for my freshman and sophomore year. I did water polo for my freshman year, and it just recently became a UIL sport, so I did it this year too.”

Asa gives insight into his severe orange allergy and how it affects him in his personal life.

“When I was two my parents fed me an orange and I swelled up for the first time,” Asa said. “I typically swell up, I can’t really breathe when I’m exposed to oranges. I have an Epi-Pen, which will usually stop the reaction pretty quick. It’s been a while since I’ve had a reaction to oranges, my last reaction was actually to pineapple, which I am also allergic to.”

Asa’s orange allergy is so harsh that even smelling or touching an orange can cause an extreme reaction, which can be a setback during swimming events.

“I’ve definitely had to be rushed out of a swim meet before because of an orange,” Asa said. “They eat oranges a lot at swim meets; it’s kind of a thing. When I’m at an event, I’m trying to focus on the swimming, but it’s just something else to think about. Just how to avoid certain areas or how to get to the blocks without going through places with oranges. I guess I’m kind of used to it, always having to be on the lookout for things like that.”

Asa’s allergy to orange is not the only allergy he has to deal with in his personal and athletic life. He has an array of sensitivities as well as other health conditions.

“I’m allergic to pineapples, pistachios, cashews, and macadamia nuts,” Asa said. “It hasn’t been too difficult to avoid certain types of foods, I just don’t really accept food from people anymore.”

Over the years, Williams has seen how Asa has learned to watch out for things that could trigger his allergy and keep himself safe while also focusing on being the best athlete he can be.

This year, Asa qualified for Regionals in both the 200 Individual Medley and the 100 Backstroke, Williams said. “He will also be swimming two relays at the Regional 3 6A Meet in Rockwall. We just competed at the District 12 6A meet at Temple High School and the team placed third with Asa scoring the most points of any of the boys on the Vikings team.”