“V” is for Victoria – as in Victoria Arlen.
Arlen won four medals – including gold – during a highly successful journey to London for the 2012 Paralympic Games from Aug. 29 to Sept. 9. Swimming for the U.S. national team, the 17-year-old competed in five events at the Aquatics Center and, in addition to grabbing gold, won three silver medals.
She placed second in her first three events, and closed out her run with a gold medal-winning time of 1 minute, 13.33 seconds in the women's 100-meter freestyle on Sept. 8.
The time set a world record. Arlen broke the previous mark, which she owned, by 1.41 seconds.
The Seacoast star celebrated second-place finishes in the 50-meter freestyle (35.32), 400-meter freestyle (5:20.18) and 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay (4:24.57).
Arlen missed by less than 1 second qualifying for the eight-swimmer final in her fourth event, the 100-meter breaststroke. She completed the race in 1:59.67. Hungary's Fanni Illes (1:58.83) edged Arlen for eighth place.
The fact Arlen participated in competitive swimming – on a world stage, no less – is nothing short of miraculous. She was diagnosed as an 11-year-old with transverse meylitis, which affects the spinal cord. The disorder resulted in Arlen's paralysis from the waist-down.
“I succumbed to a vegetative state for three years, and I couldn't walk, talk, eat, move or communicate,” Arlen told New England Cable News in June. “And I was told I wasn't (going to) make it.”
Shortly before the Games, Arlen was briefly ruled ineligible to compete. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) questioned the severity of her disability.
The ruling, appealed by U.S. officials, was overturned. And Arlen returned home with a handful of hardware.
Here are four messages Arlen recently posted to her Twitter page (@Arlenv1), one for each of the medals she earned:
– Sept. 8: “Gold medal and world record in the final race tonight! #pumped #cannotbelieveit”
– Sept. 10: “That moment when (you're) bringing your carry on through security with 4 London 2012 medals and they stop you & search your bag #uncommon”
– Sept. 11: “Officially have 1,001 followers!!! Woohoo #thanksforthesupport #MuchLove”
– Sept. 13: “That awkward moment when (you're) stopped in the Grocery store to take a picture and you have nothing but junk food in your cart..;) #dontjudge”
NEW LEAGUE, NEW COACH
Bedford is moving up to Division I this winter for boys' basketball – and Mike Fitzpatrick is going with the Bulldogs.
A fixture on Manchester's high school hoop scene since 1991, Fitzpatrick spent the past four seasons at Manchester Memorial. But, he told the New Hampshire Union Leader that player commitment waned. Fitzpatrick cited the decision several players made to forgo summer-league games for AAU.
It didn't sit well with Fitzpatrick, who decided to find another opportunity.
The Bulldogs, Division II finalists last season, opened their doors.
“Everything happens for a reason, and I'm happy to be in Bedford,” Fitzpatrick told the statewide newspaper. “I like the challenge of taking a program that's entering its first season in Division I. They've got good talent, and it's going to be fun coaching those players.”
It isn't unrealistic to think Fitzpatrick could fuel for Bedford a first-year Division I run to the final. His first season at Memorial produced a runner-up finish. City rival Trinity won the 2009 title, 50-25.
Fitzpatrick led another Manchester rival, Central, to state championships in 1996 and 2000.
Southern New Hampshire University recently hired Bob Slater as an assistant coach for the women's lacrosse team.
Slater spent the previous seven seasons as a high school head coach at Londonderry. He turned the NHIAA Division I Lancers from punching bag into the state's premier program.
From 2006-12, Slater amassed a record of 108-25-1 (three championships). The Lancers reached the state semifinals six times and appeared in four consecutive finals from 2009-12.
Londonderry celebrated a championship three-peat from 2009-11. The program also set state record win streaks for consecutive overall triumphs (51) and consecutive victories versus NHIAA opponents (59).
While Slater was at the helm, more than 30 of his players continued their careers in college.
Four of the state's top quarterbacks in NHIAA football wasted no time dissecting opposing defenses. Senior QBs Connor Benjamin (Div. III Goffstown), James Caparell (Div. II Bedford), Riley Cote (Div. I Manchester Central) and Lucas Luopa (Div. II Keene) were on point in their Week 1 games Aug. 31.
Benjamin had the biggest game, though his Grizzlies lost at Manchester Memorial, 33-32. He erupted for 278 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. He also completed 15 of 27 passes for 229 yards and a score.
Caparell completed 13 of 20 passes for 276 yards and four TDs, as the Bulldogs blasted Milford, 48-7. Bedford's field general finished his night after three quarters. But he did the bulk of his damage before halftime, completing 12 of 17 passes for 267 yards and the four scores.
Cote connected on 12 of his 17 pass attempts. Four of those tosses went for TDs. He finished with 239 yards through the air, and the Little Green unloaded on Timberlane, 32-0.
Luopa was also a dual threat in a 62-27 thrashing of Salem. He completed 13 of 22 passes for 279 yards and four scores. His 12 rushing attempts generated 168 yards and two TDs.
“You keep your eye on it definitely,” Keene head coach John Luopa, the father of his club's QB, said when asked if he's aware of the statewide talent under center. “The way (high school) offenses are going these days, that position is key.”
In Week 2, Caparell added a TD toss to his count. Cote's TD total reached seven.
It was expected Lucas Luopa and Benjamin would duel in Week 3. But the coaches decided to protect all starters from injury by resting them. NHIAA non-league game don't count toward postseason qualification.
It's too bad. Check these two-week totals:
Lucas Luopa – in five quarters of play – is 23-for-37 with 434 yards and six TDs. He ran 17 times for 233 yards and three scores.
Benjamin – in six frames of action – is 24-for-40 with 359 yards and three TDs. He ran 23 times for 421 yards and six scores.
Marc Thaler is a reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader. He co-hosts the “N.H. High School Football Show” on WGIR-AM 610 and WQSO-FM 96.7. Read his blog at NewHampshireGameDay.com and follow him on Twitter: @marc_thaler.