Centre College students are known for being competitive, both academically and athletically. But Stacy Hoehle ’04 takes it to a whole new level by competing in the five very diverse athletic arenas of the modern pentathlon. In January, Hoehle competed in and won her first international pentathlon in Toronto, Canada, in the women’s master division. And she’s aiming for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The five events of the pentathlon have changed several times since its beginnings in ancient Greece, when it was comprised of long jump, javelin throwing, discus throwing, running and wrestling. Today’s modern pentathlon was introduced in the early 20th Century, and is based on skills needed by soldiers: épée fencing, 200-meter freestyle swimming, show jumping on horseback, and combined pistol shooting and 3200-meter cross country run. This very demanding sport requires strength, agility, endurance, quick reflexes and a diverse set of skills. (Right: Stacy Hoehle holds her first-place ribbon for the master division of the Pentathlon Ontario Winter Invitational)
Hoehle, an attorney working for a software company in Indianapolis, doesn’t let her hectic professional life deter her love of athletic competition. She fences competitively with the Indianapolis Fencing Club and River City Fencing in West Lafayette, Ind., and swims competitively with Indianapolis Aquatic Masters. She won first place in the women’s épée division of the Bluegrass State Games last year in Louisville, and the Indianapolis Aquatic Masters won the team competition at the recent Indiana University Masters Swim Meet.
“I returned to competing in sports because I missed the challenge and the camaraderie with other athletes,” Hoehle says. “The people I train with at fencing and swim practices are my second family.”
Although pentathlon isn’t among the better known sports, it seems a perfect fit for Hoehle.
“My interest in modern pentathlon dates back to high school,” she says. “I ran track at Oldham County High School and have competed in equestrian events since 1992. My father, an FBI agent, bought me my first pistol and taught me to shoot.
“Through the United States Pony Club, I was introduced to tetrathlon, the modern pentathlon feeder program,” she continues. “A tetrathlon is composed of swimming, shooting, running and riding. I competed in junior tetrathlons in high school and my freshman year at Centre.”
Some significant moments leading Hoehle to becoming a pentathlete date back to experiences at Centre, starting with attending the Governor’s Scholars Program (GSP), a summer enrichment program for high school students.
“I remember swimming in Boles Natatorium while I was at GSP in 1999,” Hoehle reflects. “I was preparing for tetrathlon nationals in Lexington, Va., where I placed tenth. The first time I fenced was also at GSP with Professor of Dramatic Arts Tony Haigh.
“When I became a student, I was able to bring my horse, Dream Catcher, to Centre with me and continue training because of Cindi Gower Lacy ’79,” she continues. “Cindi boarded Dream for me at her beautiful farm [Centreview] outside of Danville.”
She says that Centre alumni have also been amazingly supportive.
“Alumni in Indianapolis have helped me find my way in my new home city, and Kappa Kappa Gamma alumnae have encouraged me every step of the way. Even people I barely knew at Centre have been in touch or offered to help me network. The loyalty in the Centre network is incomparable.” (Right: Hoehle at the épée fencing competition for the Pentathlon Ontario Winter Invitational)
Women have only been allowed to compete in pentathlon at the Olympic level since 2000, making this an even loftier challenge.
“The goal of becoming Olympic caliber in modern pentathlon was a very high bar to set for myself,” Hoehle admits. “I set this goal for two reasons. The first is that there are very few state or local-level modern pentathlons in the United States. To compete in pentathlon, you have to prepare for elite-level national events or travel abroad. There aren’t ‘easy’ or local pentathlons because the sport isn’t common in the U.S. Modern pentathlon is very much a European sport.
“The second reason why I set the goal so high is that even if I come close but miss it,” she continues, “I’ll have bettered myself as an athlete and person more than I ever imagined possible, traveled to new places, and met many inspiring people along the way.”
By Cindy Long