Hannah Reiser SIU

Hannah Reiser, a freshman swimmer at SIU from South Africa, practices at the SIU Rec Center Pool. The Salukis open the 2017-18 season Saturday against Lindenwood University.

CARBONDALE — Saluki freshman swimmer Hannah Reiser is new to Carbondale, but she is no stranger to settling into a new town, or even a new country.

Reiser was born more than 8,500 miles away in South Africa. The Reiser family resided in South Africa until she was 13 when they moved to Pleasant Plains. It was difficult for the Reisers to leave their home in South Africa, but finding a new home in Illinois was easy because Hannah's father, Troy, met her mother, Jackie, while she swam at SIU.

The move was one of the most dramatic changes Reiser has every gone through, but she said it has been for the best. Living in the United States presented a new feeling of safety that her family did not have in South Africa, as well as a wealth of new possibilities.

"I went from the city to a farm. From always worrying about our security and safety to not locking our doors at night," Reiser said. "My family lives on a farm now. In South Africa we had walls, gates and alarm systems at our house. That was a huge change."

Apart from a safer lifestyle, Reiser has benefited from the United States education and youth sport systems, which she said are better. She also said there would not have been an opportunity to receive financial assistance to pay for college or swim in college if her family stayed in South Africa.

Despite where Reiser lived, sports have always been one of the constants in her life. She played all the sports she could growing up. In high school, she played basketball as a freshman, but swimming has always been her passion.

Reiser swam all throughout high school and began attracting attention from several Division I programs. When it came to choosing her destination for college, SIU was not at the top of her list. Originally, she looked at Missouri State, Indiana State, Butler and Saint Louis as potential destinations, but that all changed when she met SIU coaches Rick Walker and Elise Knoche.

"My mom encouraged me to reach out to Rick and Elise. I met Rick first and I loved his coaching style and that he doesn't just care about swimming, but your schooling and mental health as well," Reiser said. "When I took my recruiting trip and met the team that solidified it for me. I've swam on a lot a teams and this is the most fun one I've ever been on."

While Reiser's road to Carbondale has been a long and winding one, she said she wouldn't change any bit of it. Her life experiences opened her up to different perspectives and possibilities that the typical freshman in college has not had the chance to experience.

Reiser's chapter at SIU is just beginning as a student and an athlete. She will swim in her first collegiate meet on Friday at 5 p.m., when the Salukis take on Lindenwood University to open the 2017-18 season at the SIU Rec Center Pool.

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Sports reporter

Todd Hefferman has covered SIU athletics since 2008. A University of Iowa grad, he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and a Heisman Trophy voter.

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