by Tim Troglen | Reporter
Hudson - A 16-year-old high school sophomore is hoping two January competitions will help propel her from the fields of Hudson to the international spotlight of the 2016 Olympic games in Rio De Janeiro.
Meredith Pinkerton, a pentathlon athlete from Hudson, competes in the five-sport event, which includes running, swimming, horseback riding, fencing and shooting.
While only 16, she is no stranger to the competitive international stage.
Meredith, who attends Hudson High School, placed second in regionals and fourth in nationals during summer events at the U.S. Olympic Complex in Colorado Springs, Colo.
In September, Meredith competed at the Junior World Modern Pentathlon in Hungary. Her relay team finished 17th, and in individual competition, she was “in the middle of the pack” of 120 competitors.
Trying to balance an intense training regimen with high school studies is a challenge, Meredith said.
“Usually I try to study an hour or more a day, depending on how much homework I have,” Meredith said.
Meredith’s training consists of two to three hours of swimming a day, fencing about 12 hours a week, and 45 minutes of running each day after school.
Meredith also shoots, with a laser pistol, at targets set up in her backyard, and rides her own horse regularly.
“I swim the most because I am on the high school team, and it’s my weakest event, due to a shoulder injury,” Meredith said. “I have been riding horses since I was 3 years old.”
Meredith learned to fence about 1 1/2 years ago, she said.
While she practices riding with her own pony, during competitions random horses are used, she said.
“It’s a random horse you pick out of a hat,” she said of the horses which are taken on a jumper obstacle course. “So you are on a horse that can do anything.”
Meredith has missed some classes, due to traveling for competitions, but her teachers at Hudson High School have been very understanding and cooperative, she said.
“Worlds [in September] was during school and I was out for two weeks,” Meredith said. “I told the teachers ahead of time and they gave me the homework to do on the plane.”
Meredith’s favorite subjects are sign language and English. She is hoping to make the Olympic teams in 2016 and 2020 while attending college at the University of Colorado. She would like to major in sports medicine or special education, she said.
However, Meredith will not know until 2016 if she is invited to be a member of the Olympic team. The number of qualifying events and points earned will determine who gets an invitation to try out, Meredith said.
“These next three years are going to be full of qualifiers, just so I can get points leading up to the games,” Meredith said.
Meredith has one brother, Nick, 21, who is on the dive team at Northwestern University in Illinois. She also has three sisters, Sydney, 19, who attends the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design; Lindsey, 17, who attends Hudson High School; and Brooke, 7, who attends Ellsworth Hill.
“Meredith got interested in the pentathlon about seven years ago, when she was 9,” said her mother, Tracy Pinkerton, who is a member of Hudson Emergency Medical Services.
Family friend Cindy Grace has known Meredith for more than two years.
“I have never met a person that has her ability and skill to be so mature and humble,” Grace said. “It has been a pleasure and honor to know Meredith. I wish her the very best on this wonderful journey.”
Meredith begins her day at about 5 a.m. and returns home around 9 p.m., said her mom.
“I try to give her as much support as I can,” she said. “She does really well, she is balancing all of it.”
Pinkerton believes her daughter is “in the beginning phase of her journey towards her goal of competing in the Olympics.”
“She is now seeing that a commitment to be an elite athlete is very different than the typical teenager,” Pinkerton said. “She trains hard every day and cannot afford a sick day.
“As a pentathlete, the physical preparation and the ability to be mentally strong separates those that succeed in the sport and those who remain social athletes.”
She called the pentathlon “a very difficult sport to train for since you are essentially trying to be an exceptional athlete in five different sports.”
“They call it the ultimate athlete,” she added. “It takes a pretty impressive athlete to be able to do all those different sports.”