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Iowa freshman swimmer focuses away from home

BY TORK MASON | NOVEMBER 10, 2011 7:20 AM

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In order to be successful, you can't be afraid of failure, but Iowa swimmer Hannah Maher is afraid of letting people down.

The freshman's father, David Maher, said his daughter is a goal-oriented person, but she keeps those goals to herself.

"I think she sets her goals very high, and often, she doesn't share them with anybody," he said. "I think she thinks if she doesn't make them, we would think she's a failure. She just keeps a lot of her goals pretty close to her chest."

Assistant coach Frannie Malone said the freshman doesn't need to be so worried, though; she called Maher a "bright spot" for the Hawkeyes, both in practices and on the pool deck.

"She's always got her eyes wide open, ready to listen to whatever you say and eager for feedback," she said. "That's one thing that's really benefited her this year; she wants to be coached. She's there to listen and learn and always trying to apply what you're talking about.

"It's to the point where it almost makes me laugh sometimes because she's looking so intensely at me as I'm talking."

Maher was a four-time all-state honoree and an All-American in the 100 breaststroke at Decorah High (Iowa). Her father said she applied the kind of focus that Malone applauds at the 2010 Iowa State Championships, where she was part of the Vikings' 200 medley-relay team. The group was trying to become the first relay state champion in school history and won the race — but didn't get the title.

"Our freestyler false started, and so we ended up getting disqualified," Hannah Maher said.

She had to quickly shake off the disappointment; she had to compete in two more events.

"The 200 medley relay is the first event, so that's the first event of her state meet," her father said. "The second event is the 200 freestyle, and then the third event is the 200 individual medley. So in the span of about 20 minutes she had to be back, focused on swimming her [medley] and dropping time."

She placed second in both the 200 medley and the 100 breaststroke, and her father said he was proud of the way she handled herself that day.

"She handled it very, very well; she's very mature," he said. "She had to regroup, get back on the blocks, and swim her best — and she did."

Maher said she didn't have to think much about where she wanted to go to school.

"I pretty much knew I was coming to Iowa before I even started [looking]," she said. "I'm from Iowa — who wouldn't want to be a Hawkeye? I grew up cheering for the Hawkeyes, but I also wanted to be able to have my family around and have them come see my meets. I've grown up with them always seeing my meets, and I wanted to keep that."

Hannah Maher said being away from her family has been tough — the Mahers were used to spending lots of time cooking together and generally being around each other, her father said — but she's adjusting.

"It's definitely been a change, especially being away from my twin sister, Mary Kathryn," she said. "I definitely miss my little sister a lot, too. She'll text me on my mom's phone and be like 'Hey, when are you coming home?' It's been nice to see them at meets, though."

Maher said her teammates have helped her with the adjustment and have filled the void left by her family.

"If I have any questions or if I'm feeling really homesick, I can always talk with my teammates," she said. "It's really a new family."


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