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Springfield teen is one of two finishers in historic 25-mile, open-water swim on Vermont lake

Union Leader Correspondent

July 21. 2018 10:48PM

Vera Rivard, 14, of Springfield, was one of only two people who completed the 25-mile "In Search of Memphre" swim race on Lake Memphremagog on Wednesday. (COURTESY)

DERBY, Vt. - Vera Rivard took the concept of a competitive swim to the extreme recently.

The 14-year-old Springfield resident completed a 25-mile trek on Lake Memphremagog on Wednesday, finishing second in the "In Search of Memphre" swim race and covering a distance greater than the width of the English Channel.

Rivard completed the course, which started in Newport, Vt., and finished in Magog, Quebec, in 15 hours, 24 minutes, just 27 minutes behind winner Shareesa Gutierrez, 37, of Omaha, Neb. Five other people who started the race were unable to complete the entire stretch.

According to race organizers, Rivard is the youngest person ever to cross the finish line.

"I was really happy to accomplish that goal," Rivard said by phone from her family's cottage in Derby.

Rivard trained for the event, named after the fictional lake monster, for the better part of the past year, with five to six practice sessions per week at a nearby lake or at the Upper Valley Aquatic Center (UVAC) in White River Junction.

Their Springfield home is near Kolelemook Lake.

The longest open-water race Rivard had previously completed was the 15-mile Border Buster race on the same lake, which she did last year.

Rivard's mother, Darcie Rivard, said the teen swimmer thrives in choppy waters, which she believes helped with this race since the lake became a bit rough toward the end.

"She really likes it when it's windy," Darcie said.

Rivard has been part of the swim team at UVAC since she was 5 years old. Four years ago, she completed a one-mile race on Memphremagog during the Kingdom Swim.

"Since then, she's been working her way up," Darcie said.

During the 25-mile race, Rivard was supported by her mother, who was in a kayak, and her father, Kevin, and 11-year-old sister, Margaret, also part of the support boat crew.

Darcie said the swimmer picks the speed during these races and the kayaker finds the most efficient route while supplying the swimmer with energy gels and hydration every 35 minutes.

Rivard said she never doubted that she would complete the race. Her trick was not to think about the task and just do it.

"You kind of have to relax," Rivard said.

When Rivard arrived at the beach on the north side of the lake, she took a few wobbly steps at first and then ran with excitement, Darcie said. She was treated to rice pudding and canned peaches.

The race was organized by Phil White and Kingdom Games.

Next, Rivard will be participating in a 10-kilometer swim race during the Kingdom Swim on July 28. Immediately after, she'll be cheering on her sister, who will be swimming in the 15-mile Border Buster.

Eventually, Rivard dreams of swimming the English Channel, the 20 Bridges race around Manhattan, and the swim between the California mainland and Catalina Island. Pro swimmers who do all three are dubbed "triple crown" swimmers.

Triple crown swimmer Elaine Howley of Massachusetts is one of Rivard's heroes, along with Sarah Thomas of Colorado and Charlotte Brynn of Stowe, Vt. Brynn has helped Rivard train.

"She's had so much support from the open-water community," Darcie said.

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