McDaniel grad to compete in Modern Pentathlon at Olympics

July 25, 2012

Olympic dreams came true at 5:30 a.m. May 27 when Suzanne Stettinius ’11 found out she qualified as one of only three pentathletes representing the U.S. in the London games.

Now the Business Administration major from Parkton, Md., is trying to raise funds to bring her coaches – among them McDaniel swimming coach Jeff Hiestand – and family with her as well as defray the costs she’s already accrued for travel to Modern Pentathlon qualifying events all over the world. For more information about fundraising efforts and Stettinius, visit her website here.

“Almost all of my coaches work with me for free,” says Stettinius as she prepares for a swimming workout in McDaniel’s pool under Hiestand’s watchful eye. “It would mean a lot to me to have them share in this experience with me.”

Her quest was one of mountains and valleys – she scored well at events and then was sidelined by injury, first a broken collarbone from a horse riding accident and then a pulled hamstring from a fencing lunge that ended in a split. But each time she pushed herself to her limits and was back in the competition.

“I guess when I first heard I had qualified, I was relieved that all this hard work was not for nothing,” says the 24-year-old who put training ahead of beach vacations with friends and nights out on the town. “I’m getting really excited now, but can’t let up on my training until I leave for London.”

At home on the family’s Maryland horse farm, Stettinius has focused 100-percent on training in the five sports – swimming, running, shooting, fencing and riding – since graduating from McDaniel a year ago. She qualified based on her performance this year in Pentathlon events, from World Cup events to world championships, in Brazil, Hungary, Russia, Italy and China. Her coaches, in addition to Hiestand in swimming, are Damien Lehfeldt and Bin Lu in fencing, Thomas Bernier in running and Karen Dubs in flexibility and mashing.

“Working with Suzanne these last few years has been very exciting. From here on out we will forever be able to think of her as Suzanne Stettinius, Olympic Athlete. To be a part of the process, however small, is very humbling,” says Hiestand, who has donated his time and coaching energy during the past two years.  “When we found out Suzanne made the team, the first thing I did was send her a message to tell her that I was proud of her. To set a goal is easy; to put the work into realizing it takes discipline.”

Even as a child, Stettinius had a drive to win. At 7, already an accomplished rider who was foxhunting with family on weekends and was learning to race her pony, she and her siblings joined the United States Pony Club. She qualified to compete in the Pony Club Tetrathlon (riding, swimming, running and shooting) nationals at 10, and after hearing from a pentathlete, added fencing to the soccer, lacrosse, swimming and riding that already consumed her time.

In 2008, she put aside her Junior Pentathlon competing, and decided to focus on her weakest sport – swimming. Stettinius entered McDaniel and joined the swim team. Stettinius finished her senior season with two McDaniel top swims, one in the 1,000 freestyle and the other in the 1,650 freestyle.

Two years later, she was again competing in Pentathlon events – and on her way to the Olympics.