Prospecting for Gold

Two Moravian students have a good chance to meet in Athens as competitors (though not with each other) in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games.

Emily Shertzer ’02 has been invited to train with other athletes who hope to make the team that the United States will enter in the pentathlon. She’ll spend the next couple of years in the dusty environs of Fort Sam Houston, outside San Antonio, Texas, building up to a chance at an Olympic gold medal.

And Christina Scherwin ’04, a javelin virtuoso who has spent this year coming back from a knee injury, still hasn’t matched her own personal best. But she won the national javelin championship with a record throw of 169 feet, 7 inches at the NCAA Division III outdoor track and field meet May 26 at Macalester College, St. Paul, Minn.

If Scherwin continues on the road to the Olympics, however, she probably will compete for her native country: Denmark.

The event for which Shertzer is a hopeful, formerly called the military pentathlon, requires entrants to be proficient target shooters, fencers, swimmers, horseback riders, and runners. An invitation to train for the pentathlon requires that the athlete already meet competition standards in four of the five categories, “which is where I’m at,” Shertzer said. A native of Hummelstown, Pa., near Hershey, Shertzer is a prize-winning rider and an all-American runner; and she has qualified for the air pistol and swimming events. Now she must learn the art of the epée.

As a high school rider, Shertzer came to the notice of U.S. Olympic officials when she competed in an international tetrathlon organized by the Pony Club, a national association for riders between the ages of 6 and 21. The American tetrathlon team competed in Ireland, Scotland, and England in 1996. Shertzer was the top U.S. finisher and came in ninth overall. Her partner in the pentathlon training is Sting, a 14-year-old Appaloosa that she’s ridden since eighth grade.
Shertzer graduated in May with a B.S. in biology and a minor in music. At the NCAA Division III championships in which Scherwin won the javelin throw, she was the seventh-place finisher in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

The world-ranked Scherwin, 25, who stands 5 foot 11 inches and weighs a slim 145 pounds, comes from the Danish port city of Aarhus. As a high school student, she set her country’s junior record in the heptathlon and was ranked sixth in the world, also in the junior division, for the javelin. She worked for Harman Consumer International, an American company, and trained after work.

Then she met Mark Fletcher, at the time an American collegiate javelin champion, and came to Philadelphia to live with him while he did his medical residency at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. She decided to attend Moravian (as a management major) because a Division III school has no age restrictions.

At the 2001 Penn Relays, she landed badly and tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee. After eight months of rehabilitation, she reentered the competition circuit. But most sports observers believe she has held herself back for fear of re-injury. Her throws, though respectable, are nowhere near the 193 feet, 9 inches she threw to beat the U.S. champion at an international amateur meet in 1999. But she has two years to warm up before Athens.

Christina Scherwin ’04 makes her winning throw at the NCAA Division III Championships.

Photo: Vince Musik/NCAAPhotos