Manhattan First, The Channel Next

This NEK swimming phenom is ticking off her bucket list. And she’s only 16.

By Sophie Hiland

“Normally I swim in lakes where you see a lot of pretty mountains instead of huge skyscrapers,” says 16-year-old Vera Rivard of Derby.

On July 5, Rivard swam New York’s 20 Bridges (formerly the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim) passing under the Brooklyn Bridge and the George Washington Bridge, among others. During the 28.5-mile swim which took her 7 hours and 53 minutes, Rivard swam by the Freedom Tower and the Statue of Liberty. She kept her eyes on Manhattan instead of on the water she was swimming in. “I didn’t see a lot of trash during my swim but that’s mostly because I’d heard stories before and thought I’m just not gonna look at the river” She adds, with a giggle, “That was a very, very good tactic”

Rivard grew up with with lakes in her front yards in homes in Springfield, N.H. and Derby, Vt. At a young age, she and her sister wondered if they could swim the half mile from their house to the town beach. “It really grew from there” Rivard explains.

Rivard joined a swim team and by age 10 she’d entered the world of open water swimming. Now, when she’s not traveling for swims, she trains at the Upper Valley Aquatic Club in White River Junction, Vt. Rivard’s training usually involves six swims a week, each between three and five miles.

In 2018 Rivard completed the 25- mile In Search of Memphre Swim in Lake Memphremagog, which is hosted by Kingdom Games. Her mom followed by kayak. For the New York swim, Rivard’s kayaker stopped with her every 35 to 50 minutes as she treaded water refueled.

Rivard’s next challenge will be to swim across the English Channel, on Sept. 1 (follow her progress here. )While the swim across the Channel, at 21 miles, is shorter than 20 Bridges, swimmers face aggressive currents which can often make that distance longer.

The high schooler will have to miss some school in order to properly quarantine after her trip to England, she says, “my teachers and principal have been really understanding.”

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