Paralympian Arlen of Exeter High is Athlete of the MonthBy JIM FENNELL
New Hampshire Union Leader
October 15. 2012 11:05PM
Starting your final year in high school, playing a sport and thinking about where you want to go to college would be enough for most seniors. That's just the start for Arlen.
Fresh off winning four medals at the 2012 Paralympics in London - including gold with a world-record time in the 100-meter freestyle - Arlen, 18, has had little time to come up for air.
She visited family and did several media events during a tour of Scotland right after the Games, headed back to New Hampshire to begin her senior year at Exeter High School, had a parade in her honor, signed with an agent for speaking engagements and modeling appearances, and began practicing with the sled hockey team at the University of New Hampshire.
'It's still been hectic,' Arlen said, 'but I've been able to hang out with my friends and do normal teenage stuff.'
Arlen's world-record performance made her the September Athlete of the Month as voted by the New Hampshire Union Leader Board of Judges. In the process, she became the first unanimous selection of 2012.
Arlen led a ballot that also included Plymouth State University volleyball standout Casey Stoodley of Salem and a pair of punishing high school running backs: Tyler Mavicki of Bristol's Newfound Regional and Ben Franzoso of Hampton's Winnacunnet High.
Others receiving votes were cyclist Isaac Howe of Concord, soccer players Lydia Simmons of Londonderry High and Casey Schehl of Bedford, and high school quarterbacks Tyler Ford of Souhegan of Amherst and James Caparell of Bedford.
Arlen, who has a neurological disorder that left her paralyzed from the waist down, had a magical two weeks in London, winning three silver medals in her class (500 free, 400 free and 4x100 freestyle relay) before winning gold on the final day of the Games.
'It was the perfect fairy tale ending,' Arlen said of her final race. 'It will always be my special race.'
Arlen's rise to the top of her sport is the stuff movies are made of. She was in a prolonged vegetative state and almost died before doctors were finally able to diagnose her condition three years after she first began displaying symptoms at the age of 11. Active and athletic before her illness, Arlen resumed swimming after she began to get her health back, but she began swimming competitively as a paralympian only a year or so before the Games.
Arlen's schedule has been full - case in point: she was in Manchester on Monday to receive recognition at the annual Friendship Dinner and Award Ceremony hosted by the Turkish Cultural Center, Council of Turkic American Associations and the Peace Island Institute - so she decided to take a gap year next year and begin her college career in 2014.
In the meantime, she will play sled hockey - she was selected for the U.S. Women's national team - prepare for the world swimming championships next summer in Canada and train for her first triathlon.
So much for the 'normal teenage stuff.'
To submit a nomination for future Athlete of the Month consideration, email the Union Leader Sports Department at firstname.lastname@example.org and enter 'Athlete of the Month' in the subject line.
Previous 2012 winners: January, Drew Ledwith, Keene (swimming); February, Zach Bridson, Sandown (wrestling); March, Curtis Arsenault, Berlin (basketball); April, Peter Williamson, Hanover (golf); May, Morgan Andrews, Milford (soccer); June, Hillary Holmes, Exeter (track); July, Lauren Thibodeau, Hampstead (golf), August, Sarah Groff, Hanover (triathlon).