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Epic Mixed Relay at US National Championships
It was a classic battle of Army vs. Air Force, older sister vs. younger sister, juniors vs. seniors. It was a culmination of a weeklong camp and competition. As if Mother Nature knew that the epic battle was approaching, a sunny day turned ominous as the clouds approached signaling the storm that was ready to begin.
In the end it was men’s national champion Nathan Schrimsher and women’s runner-up Isabella Isaksen who claimed the title in a battle that lived up to prior expectations. Mixed relay is a two person team made up of one male and one female whom participate in the five fencing disciplines.
While 15 teams were entered in the competition, the battle was expected to come down to the favorites representing the New York Athletic Club, women’s national champion, two-time Olympian Margaux Isaksen and Olympian Eli Bremmer competing against the junior national champions Isabella Isaksen and Nathan Schrimsher. Eli is an Air Force officer having graduated from the Air Force Academy. Nathan is fresh out of boot camp having enlisted in the Army.
With the riding being contested off-site, it was taken out of the normal order and would be the first event contested. This riding event was different than the normal pentathlon competition in that it was a “gamblers choice,” meaning that there was no set course and that the riders could choose what jumps they wanted to attempt winning various points based on difficulty with a successful clearance.
The New York Athletic Club teammates put together a strategy of a jumping sequence that garnered them an impressive win in the riding event. It was “Team Junior Champions” in second trailing by 120 points. Impressive rides were performed by Naval Academy graduate Peggy LeGrand and Whitney Wickes.
The rest of the competition would take place at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. The next event was fencing and again it was the New York Athletic (NYAC) club team who took it to the rest of the competition winning 44 bouts and 1080 points. Team Junior Champions was again second, with 39 victories worth 1,000 points. The gap was now 200 points between first and second.
In the swimming competition it was Atticus Coscia and Luke Ingram from “Team Indiana” turning in the fastest team time to win the event. Other notable performances were turned in by Nathan had the fastest 100 m swim time of 56.0, with Drew Ledwith close behind at 56. Top women’s times were made by Grace Kittle in the senior division and youth athlete Klarissa Lou competing in the junior division. “Team Junior Champions” finished fifth 20 points ahead of sixth place NYAC.
As the weather changed and the sound of thunder could be heard in the distance, the final event, the combined was about to start. The combined is a run/ shoot event. The first member of each team will do two circuits of running 800 meters and shooting a laser pistol attempting to hit a target five times before tagging their teammate who will then do the same two circuits.
A staggered start based on points earned is how the race begins; this is caused a handicap start. In this case, the NYAC would start 45 seconds before their younger challengers. In the first shoot, Margaux got off to a slow start taking 45 seconds to hit the target five times thus enabling her sibling to close the gap. In the second circuit, both girls performed outstandingly well as Margaux handed the lead to Eli.
Both Eli and Nathan are expert shots, with Eli having just broken the USA Pentathlon laser shooting record of 15 hits in "8.5" ring in 59 seconds only 10 days before. The race stayed tight with the NYAC in the lead. With 500 meters to go, the lead was only 4 meters.
With 100 meters to go the runners were deadlocked as they entered the significant incline approaching the finish line. It was here that Nathan gathered an inner strength and surged ahead of Eli. Never looking back, Nathan finished just ahead of Eli. As if the Gods from Olympus were showing their approval, lightning flashed high above around Pikes Peak and the thunder reverberated below.
The spectators had seen an epic battle that climaxed in the uphill sprint towards the finish. Emotions were high as the Army reigned supreme and the younger athletes had prevailed.
Nathan in one weekend won every event that he could possibly win at the USA Pentathlon National Championships having won the Men’s Junior and Senior titles and now the Mixed Relay title. A few months ago the boy entered Army boot camp, causing him to miss most of the competitive season, but the Army had kept him in shape and now he returns as a man to claim the Pentathlon titles.
“Team Colorado” made up of Team USA Junior World Championship team members Brendan Anderson and Samantha Achterberg were strong across the various events and attacked the last event with a surge that gave them a second place finish in the combined event and a third place finish over-all in the competition earning them a bronze medal in the national championship and showed a glimmer of things to come.
The real winners were all of the pentathletes that competed and made and renewed friendships during the weeklong camp and competitions. It saw beginners who were masters of other sports try their hand at Pentathlon, youngsters who were just starting out on a journey that might take them to the Olympics of 2024 or 2028 in an as yet unnamed city and older athletes who have Pentathlon “in their blood.”