It’s difficult to predict what will happen during this weekend’s NHIAA Swimming and Diving Championships at the University of New Hampshire’s Swasey Pool, but it’s probably safe to say few will be surprised if the Exeter High School girls leave UNH with another title.
Exeter won the Division I girls meet in 2016 and again last year, and had 16 girls qualify for this year’s state meet. Hannah Lord, a senior who has signed a national letter of intent to continue her swimming career at Lehigh, is among those 16 qualifiers.
Lord, a Newfields resident, has an impressive resume. At last year’s state meet she contributed to Exeter’s victorious 200 medley-relay team, took second in the 200 freestyle (1:56.34), won the 200 individual medley and led off the winning 400 freestyle relay (55.02). She’s been a major contributor to the Exeter program since her freshman season.
“I’d say we’re definitely one of the favorites,” Lord said. “Bedford is up there with us. That’s who we’re really looking at as our main competition, but there are other strong teams. If everyone does what they’re supposed to do we should be able to pull it off.”
The diving competition for all divisions will be held Friday beginning at 5:30 p.m. The Division II swimming championships are scheduled to start Saturday at 8:45 a.m., and will be followed by the Division I swimming championships at 4:45 p.m.
Lord is expected to compete in the 200 free and the 500 free, and possibly the 200 medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay as well. Her stiffest competition in the 200 free may be teammate Erin Madden.
“I just want to place well in both of my events, but if she out-touches me I won’t be too upset,” Lord said. “I don’t have too many individual goals because this event is so team-oriented. I just want to do well for Exeter.”
Lord won the 200 IM (2:12.23), the 100 breast (1:09.42) and led off the winning 400 freestyle-relay team at the state meet as a freshman. The following year she was part of the winning 200 medley relay, placed first in the 200 IM (2:08.09) and won the 500 free (5:04.57).
Her college choices came down to Lehigh and Dartmouth. She took an official visit to each school.
“When I started looking at schools it was tough because you’re trying to find a school you like, a team you like, a coach you like … all those things,” Lord said. “At first I was really torn between Lehigh and Dartmouth, but it seemed like all the puzzle pieces came together (with Lehigh).”
Lord competes for the Dover-based Seacoast Swimming Association when she’s not swimming for Exeter.
“She’s a terrific student-athlete, and when it comes to swimming she’s the real deal,” Exeter athletic director Bill Ball said. “Strong. Just a really, really fine young woman. Top shelf.”
Exeter’s title last year was the third state championship the girls’ program has won in the last five years. Bedford finished as the runner-up to the Blue Hawks last year.
Bishop Guertin is the favorite to win the Division I boys’ title. The Exeter boys finished second to BG last year. Hanover won the Division II boys’ and girls meets a year ago.
“The (Exeter) boys are just as good as us, but they have steep competition in BG,” Lord said. “BG is definitely the favorite.”