On July 18th, swimmers plunged into the waters of Lake Memphremagog for the start of the grueling 25 mile swim hosted annually by Kingdom Games, In Search for Memphre. The race started at the EastSide Restaurant in Newport, Vt. and ended in Magog, Quebec.
According to Kingdom Games’ website, the race was “…started in 2011 on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, in part to promote a more open border with our Canadian friends and to search for that elusive, swimmer friendly, lake creature, Memphre.”
Out of the seven swimmers who started this year’s race, only two finished all 25 miles: Sharessa Guiterrez, 37, of Omaha, Nebraska and 14-year-old Vera Rivard of Springfield, New Hampshire and Derby, Vermont. All seven swimmers faced choppy waters and winds up to 20 MPH for the first 15 miles of the race.
At 14-years-old, Vera Rivard was the youngest person to complete all 25 miles of the race across Lake Memphremagog, with a time of 16 hours and 24 minutes. Vera trains at the Upper Valley Aquatic Club in White River Junction, Vt. She has been training for this demanding event for over a year. The Rivard family has a lake house in Derby, Vt. and their other house sits on a small lake in Springfield, NH.
Vera’s open water swim career began in 2014 when she was just 10 years old. The same year, she won the Northeast Kingdom Open Water Swimming Association (NKOWSA) Swimmer of the Year Award. Before entering In Search for Memphre, Vera had already participated in six races in the Memphremagog Winter Swim Festival, placing in the top ten in each. Her success stories continued with many other accomplishments all the way up to her triumphant 25 mile finish in the In Search for Memphre. In her career, Vera has completed 31 total swimming events. She won the 16.1 km Lake Willoughby swim with a total time of five hours and five minutes in 2017. Then again in 2017 she finished fifth overall in a 25 km Border Buster swim in Lake Memphremagog.
Vera’s mom, Darcie Rivard, says she is very proud of Vera and especially of her ability to concentrate for so long. Darcie kayaked alongside her daughter for all 25 miles of the race.
“I’m happy I did it and to have finished that goal,” Vera says. “ I have been training for over a year,” she added, reflecting back on how she felt after finishing the race. “I knew I could finish when I could see the end, which meant there were seven miles to go.” Before this 25-mile push, Vera’s longest swim had been 15 miles, which she finished in seven hours and 15 minutes.
The weather only added to the difficulty of this year’s the Search of Memphre. For the first 15 miles, swimmers faced strong headwinds. In Vera’s case, this seemed to be a good thing. “I think that was the key to her success… the challenge of the waves is what she enjoys…” says Darcie. Vera said she was ready for the rough conditions after training in choppy waters at her family’s lakeside cottage in Derby, Vermont.
Vera’s upcoming challenges include a 10k race this Saturday (July 28th). Then she will swim in one of her favorite weeks of the year, Northeast Kingdom Swim Week, which runs from Aug. 11 through Aug. 19. In that event, competitors swim 8 lakes in 9 days for a total of 46 miles.